The thing about stereotypes is that there is some grain of truth buried beneath a generalization. There are people for whom the stereotype is a perfect fit, probably how it got started in the first place, but for the group described, as a whole, it’s just wrong. There are all kinds of stereotypes for autism. Each person with autism is different, so the stereotypes really don’t fit well. For Bryan I have learned that many of the common ones really aren’t applicable. Does this mean he does not have autism? Does this make him more high functioning than others? Nope. Bryan is not sensitive to loud noises. Last night we had dinner at the Cheesecake Factory with friends. The acoustics in the room we were in were so poor, I found it hard to hear anyone speak and certainly if you had any noise sensitivity you would have struggled greatly. Bryan and his classmate from school were completely un-phased by this noise level. Interesting, but not enough to get me to write a blog.
This past weekend the boys were with their Dad. I had planned to pick them up late afternoon to go to the aforementioned dinner. During the day I had made plans to take my Mom out to brunch and then have her spend some time with me going to Lenscrafters for my eye doctor appointment and shopping at the Boca Mall. If you are a Jewish mother and daughter, going to the mall to shop on a Sunday is as normal as breathing. My mom, however, has Alzheimer’s Disease and the purpose of our outing was not a fun day of shopping and sharing. Instead, I was trying to spend some time with Mom, give my Dad, the primary caretaker, a much needed respite, and to accomplish some tasks while the boys were away. At brunch my Mom was really struggling with eating and at this point we have no substantive conversation. Really, we have no conversation at all. My Mom is/was a very dignified, elegant woman. When she is with me I tell myself to protect her dignity, her long since passed self-esteem. My mom is/was a very proud, stoic person and as her daughter I feel it is my job, my duty in a way, to treat as she would want to be treated if she could take care of herself. It’s not easy, I will tell you that. Wrong, it sucks big time!! In any event, we spent about 3.5 hours together and then I took her back home to my Dad. He is struggling with this situation; it is really a mind fuck. Here is the person you love right in front of you, yet they are not them and are not coming back. Heartbroken is the only word that surfaces.
Ok so I go to pick up the kids. I must admit that although I am always happy to see them after a weekend apart, the very sight of them after this tough time with my Mom is like getting a Carvel sundae. Sweet and delicious, and exactly what you need after a salty meal. When we drive a little I can no longer hold back the tears. I want to shield them from what’s going on yet they are old enough to understand and participate. Jason was up front with me and was his typical loving and caring self. I always battle between showing them the upset, vulnerable, mommy and trying to keep it all in so they won’t worry. No one can hold the damn all of the time. Bryan, however, did not say a word as he was in the back seat focused on our upcoming dinner. After dinner we got home and after a few chores were done Bryan was sitting on the couch perpendicular to me. He said, “Mommy, I’m sorry you’re worried.” I knew exactly what he meant. I know and can decode Bryan. You see, while he doesn’t always say things at the moment, he processes slowly, it comes out later. I got up and hugged him so tightly. Empathy. Yes, a boy with autism can show empathy. I was literally taken out of my despair and embraced by this small yet enormous milestone. If you have a child and they show empathy, you always feel great. But if you have a child with autism, well, another huge stereotype debunked.