Every weekend is an Autism Awareness weekend. No, I’m not talking about educating the public. I’m talking educating myself. About renewing my own understanding of the depth of autism’s affect on our daily life.
Weekends, I take my son to any and all public places. Weight Watcher meetings, coffee shop, the mall, grocery store, WalMart or Target runs. It is inevitable during all these encounters with the public that autism makes its appearance.
Let me take you on a little tour. It all started out innocently enough. We headed to my Weight Watchers’ meeting. Most of the regular ladies that work the scale were gone. The only available weigh-in scale was at the corner of the room furthest from where we were sitting.
Feeling confident that my son would be ok with his iPad, I walked across the room. Then I heard, “Your mom is just getting weighed,” from our leader. Apparently, the little guy realized I wasn’t next to him and started looking around. He wandered up to the front of the room where our leader was -guess what? Leading the meeting. Then she said, that when he didn’t see me, he decided to head up to her. (Autism moment) She was wonderful about it, as usual. Thank goodness for her.
We next headed to the coffee shop. The line was out the door. Knowing my son’s impatience, loud cussing (“fire truck!”), and chance of meltdown, I chose to take him into a nearby store for a few minutes until the line died down. (Autism accommodation).
On the way, we saw my son’s friend, “B”, and his mom. I stopped to say hello. My son wandered away. (Autism) I called him back. B’s mom said “hi” to him. My son looked off in the distance – no eye contact – no “hi”, ignoring her completely. (Autism) Her son was participating in a yo-yo day with the toy store. He came over to the table. Both boys are somewhat shy. I think “B” has given up on communicating with my son. I told him to say “hi” to “B” but it was barely a whisper. “B” whispered back his own hello, then took off.
After ordering, I fed my son a bagel (cutting it in to small bites and putting the exact correct amount of cream cheese on each bite – sensory processing), at a table with “B” and his mom. My child turned in his chair, so his back faced us all. (Autism) I tried to correct this several times. He continued to fuss in the chair, tried to put his foot on the table and kept turning away. (Autism) Time to go.
I took off with him and tried to complete a couple errands. I ogled some beautiful autumn displays at Williams Sonoma for a good 30 seconds. The rest of the time was spent trying to keep the bull in the china shop from breaking glasses or plates that I couldn’t afford to replace. (Autism)
Next, I let him run around in the Disney store. Literally. Run around. I couldn’t catch him in time. Being the weekend and the store being new, it was packed with people. I had to dart between people and displays to track my child’s whereabouts – in order not to lose him in the crowd. I had to stop him from taking over toys held by children half his size. I had to apologize at least four times. (Yes – autism).
Looking for possible new shoes was next. Inside the store, he spied a pair of blue, high top, skate shoes that he liked. The young woman working there asked if I needed to measure his foot. Taking a deep breath, I said yes. The last time his foot was measured was last March. It was time. I was hoping it might be better that day. No.such.luck.
There is the whole thing about both feet having to be out of the shoes. Initially, when he got the first shoe off, he yelled, “Wanna push the two! Push the two! Two is a good number! Let’s push the two!” Once the other shoe was off, she tried to measure his right foot. He tried to squish both feet in. I had to pull his left foot off. Then, he decided he’d sit down on the measuring device. I had to stand him back up. Then he leaned backward on the chair and stuck his finger in his belly button.
At this point, the young woman gave me the look that says, “Hey, what’s up with your kid?” Not in a mean way, but in a confused way. So, I felt compelled to tell her what was up with my kid. (autism) Her reaction was about as good as it gets. The “oh – glad I’m not you, but I will do my best to help you” look. Size 13. Got the shoes. First shoe on, number two was yelled out again. When the second shoe was on, we both thought he’d be okay. He screamed for the second shoe to come off.
I apologized. Why? Because he was not a fun customer. Simple as that. She knew the shoes could not be purchased because they did not stay on long enough to figure out if they fit. She even offered to re-lace the one he screamed to get off, thinking the way it was laced might have bugged him. She may have been right. But it was too late. There was no trying again. (Autism). She offered to help us any time we wanted to come back.
We looked at Halloween costumes. There was a blue monster and a green monster. He yelled out for each color, followed by colors which were not choices. (Autism) We left.
We successfully navigated WalMart, after the obligatory distracting toy was placed in his hands. I put him – with his feet almost touching the ground – in the cart seat. (Target’s carts are bigger and better- by the way).
Next April? Not so sure about that Autism Awareness thing… In April, I talked about how I do autism awareness every day. This is part of what I mean.