The Streaker

funny-cute-cat-yes-noJack is definitely his father’s son.

They both have red hair and blue eyes.

They are both ardent meat eaters.

Neither of them really listen to me, unless I am talking about bacon or boobies.

Also, they are both closet nudists.

O.k, maybe it’s more accurate to say that they are the “playing naked on the street intersection” and “streaking down the apartment building hallway” nudists.

Suffice it to say, if my son were ever going to be any kind of nudist, I’d rather it weren’t the street intersection kind. That particular childhood glory can stay in the memories of my partner, his parents, the little friend he was playing dinky cars with, and the cops who hauled him home, buck-arsed naked.

Jack seized his moment of glory at 7am one morning last week. He was sitting on the training potty in the middle of the living room (because, who doesn’t go to the bathroom in the living room?), while I was sitting on the couch, brushing Jill’s hair and getting her ready for school.

Jack apparently thinks “take your pull-up off and sit on the potty” means “take off all your clothes”. He sat there on the throne, not a stitch of clothing on him, shifting around like he wanted to be anywhere but there.

Normally, I keep him sitting on the potty, until I am finished helping his sister get ready for the day. This way, I have both of them in front of me, and I know exactly what they are doing. Plus, it’s the only way I can keep an eye on Jack.

The little bugger is fast.

That morning, I was running a bit behind. Jack was shifting around on his potty, as I mentioned, so I told him to stand up. Seeing that there was nothing in his potty, I figured if I told him what I wanted him to do, we’d still be in safe territory. I told Jack to put the potty back where it goes… right in front of the front door (don’t ask- I don’t even know why it goes there). He bent over, still buck arsed naked, and picked up the potty to trek it over to the front door.

I sat on the couch, brushing Jill’s hair.

I heard the clatter of the potty being placed, not-so-gently, down on the linoleum.

I heard the lock slide, and the door open and shut quickly.

Did I mention the little bugger is quick?

I must have shoved poor Jill forward (and out of her chair) in my effort to get out the apartment door before my son reached the lobby. Amazingly, all she said was: “Mom, don’t pull my hair!”

In a matter of maybe 10 seconds, Jack cleared the 100 feet between our door and the door leading to the lobby. That little bum is going to be a sprinter, I tell you. I swear he’s hiding rocket boosters somewhere on him.

When I caught him, he had his little hand on the knob of the door leading to lobby, and an evil little grin on his face as he looked up at me. It was a stroke of good luck that nobody else on my floor happened to poke their head out the door at the sound of my son gleefully giggling as he sprinted down the hallway in a state of blissful nudity.

My little mischief maker- it’s a good thing he’s cute.

Fire-Breathing Dragons

Sometimes I have a few moments to myself in the morning, between getting things ready for the day and prying my children off their bed.

This morning, I scored a few such moments to myself, so I sat down on my couch, coffee in hand. Our free-standing oscillating fan was already on for the day because, even at 6:30 in the morning, our apartment retains heat better than hell itself. The ribbons that my partner tied on the front grate for our daughter’s benefit were already waving merrily in the breeze, and they will likely wave merrily every day until the heat of the season turns to cold, and it’s time to put the fan away for another year.

It will be around about the time that my daughter will have just started to accept the presence of the fan, and the fact that it’s on and moving side to side. It may even be around about that time that she starts allowing herself to get close to it- perhaps to feel the breeze coming from it, or to feel those ribbons gently slap against her face. It will come after months of patiently working with her, to get her to the point where she can at least pass by the fan without shrinking away from it.

She’s afraid of it, you see. She’s afraid of the fan the way she’s afraid of toilets that don’t flush right, seedy dandelions, cobwebs and spiders, and the way she used to be afraid of threads, feathers, and long grasses.

My partner and I, after almost 5 years of these unreasoning fears, still have absolutely no idea what goes on in her head when she comes up against these things. We can reason that these fears are related to her tactile sensitivity, or her noise sensitivity, or maybe that they just don’t behave in what she figures is a “normal” way, and that in itself upsets her inner sense of balance; the fact is, we don’t know, and it’s likely we won’t know until she is old enough to explain it.

On some days, I see our daughter as a mighty lioness- capable of tearing down barriers, and leaping over obstacles with a kind of grace and a sort of stubborn defiance. Then, she’s the child that needs no hand up, no helping-out. She leads the way, with a sense of pride and confidence that says she will defy the odds.

On other days, she is small and delicate, and it seems like the world is filled with fans, seedy dandelions, cobwebs and spiders. It seems as though, at every turn, there is something to scream and cry about- something that threatens to gobble up her spirit and crush her will. She seems to shrink on those days, clasping tightly to a loving hand for emotional support and guidance.

My partner and I, for our part, give her a gentle but steady push forward. We speak to her words of love and support, and arm her with a metaphorical sword and shield; these are, after all, her fire-breathing dragons.

My Little Lioness

lion_cubWhen you get down to it, there isn’t much in the world that can put out the fire in little Jill’s heart. She has a smile that would melt the frozen tundra, and somehow she manages to be both delicate and strong. Within her tiny frame, all 3 and a half feet of her, is the spirit of a lioness.

Jill has a love of horses.

Although she already spends her days at a farm, she would stay there all night, too, if she could. She would probably curl up in some clean corner of a stall, not far away from one of her four legged friends, if we but turned our back on her for long enough.

Last year, a few months after she started attending therapy at the farm, she made friends with a pretty little white pony, named Crystal.

Crystal has a love for her human friends that shines as bright as Jill’s smile. She is a “hog” for attention, and is just the right size for little Jill. With her therapist walking at her side one day, Jill rode Crystal around the field of tall grasses, and around the old cottage at the foot of the driveway, and around the decrepit old shed that is overgrown with ivy and other vines.

Jill’s father and I were chatting with the mom of another little boy who attended therapy there, talking animatedly about how we were going to haul the family away right after Jill’s therapy session, for a blissful weekend of camping at French Beach. Jill and her little brother Jack were excited to go, too. They were looking forward to playing with their glowsticks in a darkened tent, and getting filthy and not having to shower for a whole three days.

So, the smile that we had on our faces as we turned toward the sound belied the intensity of the bloodcurdling shriek that came from the direction of the ivy-covered shed. We looked in that direction, naturally concerned, but stayed where we were. It sounded for all the world like a typical meltdown, and we knew full well the therapist could handle it.

Call us callous, but we’re used to the meltdowns, and we know when we can let others deal with it. Before long, however, we saw the therapist walking back up the driveway with Jill in her arms, still in the middle of a full on screaming meltdown.

We had to shout to be heard over Jill. Still, we managed to ferret out the gist of what had happened- as she was riding along on Crystal, a fern wrapped itself around Jill’s arm, setting off her sensory issues. She started screaming and crying, and launched herself off the pony and onto the unsuspecting therapist, who wasn’t prepared to catch her. Although we didn’t know it then, Jill had broken her arm by landing on her therapist.

Since we had all our worldly goods stowed in the back of our van, in preparation for a weekend away, we also had some children’s Tylenol. Without really knowing why, but figuring it would take away the inevitable headache that results from your run of the mill Epic Meltdown, we laced her thoroughly with it. Also figuring it would sort itself out before long, we ended the session, carefully bundled the kids into the car, and headed to French Beach anyway.

Alas, we got there to find out our reservation hadn’t “stuck”… our spot had been given away, and so had all the others. So, as we turned back home, we had two kids melting down in the back of the van. Jack was new to the whole thing, but he knew he was missing out. As for Jill, there wasn’t much that could tear her away from the idea of camping for a whole weekend. Having to turn around when she could see the trees and the other kids playing was as close to the Apocalypse as you could get.

It wasn’t until the next day, when we realized Jill couldn’t lift her arm without screaming bloody murder, that we knew something was actually wrong. After spending half a day in the hospital to get the verdict, my partner and I were ready to throw in the towel.

“I guess we’ll have to stay home this weekend,” I said, heaving a sigh.

Jill, her arm already in a sling, issued an emphatic “no”, in her own way; to wit, crying and wailing about how she still wanted to go camping.

We did go, after all. It wasn’t to French Beach, but rather to Saltspring Island- the only place we could find a spot, but also the best place we could have ever landed. Throughout that weekend, I watched my little girl play, almost as if nothing was wrong. She couldn’t lift her arm, or put weight on it, however, which meant she couldn’t climb or help us carry things. She did get good and dirty, though. I don’t think there was a single spot on her that was still clean by the end of the weekend. She gloried in all the dirt, and did her level best to take most of it home with her by wearing it.

When we came home, all exhausted and sunburned but oddly happy in spite of all things, I fully expected our little city-bred farm girl to tell me she wanted nothing to do with horses anymore. After all, she did break her arm jumping off of one. Between the three of us, her therapist and my partner and I, we hoped we could at least talk her into attending her sessions at the farm, even if she didn’t want to be near the horses. There was even mention of letting her choose which horse or pony she wanted to ride, out of all of them.

Now, Crystal doesn’t stand very tall. On my 5’8” frame, her head might come to my shoulders. She is not the smallest on the farm by a long shot, but neither is she the biggest. The biggest horse there, in fact, is a Percheron gelding by the name of Viktor. His withers are just about level with the top of my head; he is perhaps twice as tall as Crystal, and at least three times as big, overall…

And my daughter wanted to ride him.

The very next Friday she sat astride the huge horse, looking not much bigger than a Lego figurine on his back. She sported her bright pink riding helmet, a dark blue arm sling, and a proud smile to put the sun to shame.

An Open Letter to the Lady at Tim Horton’s

being-judgemental-300x300You stood, a little to the left of the line-up, waiting for your food at the local Tim Horton’s. Well dressed, and with your hair done “just so”, you almost seemed too posh to be standing where you were. There was a scowl on your face that seemed so etched in that one would almost say it was permanent. You made no sound to anyone, but you didn’t need to: your general disdain was like a perfume whose scent you’ve become so used to that you can no longer tell how much you’ve put on.

I stood in the line with my family, 5 or 6 people back from you. We were there to treat ourselves to something nice, in an effort to shake off some of the residue of what had been a bad week. The expression on my face mirrored my partner’s: worn out, irritated and a little sad.

My daughter, thank the gods, was being on her best behaviour. She quietly eyed the display of delicious-looking cookies and donuts, knowing full well that one of them would soon be hers. This was rare for her. No, it’s not terribly rare for her to be getting a treat at one of her favourite places, but it is rare for her to be so well behaved while waiting for it.

Usually, she is one to act out the most out of the two kids.

My son, on the other hand, was determined to lie down on the dirty floor in spite of the grip I had on his hand. I must have told him to stand up, in a normal tone, about 10 times all told. He kept doing it regardless of what I said because, frankly, he can be single-minded like that. That inherent single-mindedness is not only part of being a little boy, but it’s part of being a little boy with Autism.

You wouldn’t know that he- and his sister, for that matter- was Autistic, unless you knew him well, or even just knew what some of the characteristics of Autism were.

It must have been after I had told him to stand up for the 8th time, that you turned around and looked at my son (who was still sprawled on the floor just then) with a roll of your eyes, and then shot me a dirty look. It was a look I’ve seen before, no doubt like many parents of special needs kids.

It’s the look seems to suggest I ought to discipline my child better, or maybe that I’m not a good parent.

It’s the look that asks, in silent judgement: “What’s wrong with your child?”

I ignored you then, despite wanting to tell you off for staring so rudely.

After the 10th time of wearily telling my boy to stand up and hauling him to his feet, his father chimed in, with a stern tone of voice- a command.

It was not a yell. It was not belittling or abusive. It was just a tone that brooked no argument. Our boy shot to his feet and stayed there.

That’s when your food arrived (thank god). You grabbed it off the counter, and stared at my partner and I in judgement and disdain. I didn’t say anything, but stared right back until you passed behind me.

As an Autism parent, I meet a lot of people like you- people who think that Autism is just an excuse for “bad” behaviour.

People who don’t think there’s really anything different about kids like mine, and that they should be treated- and expected to behave- like every other “normal” child out there.

People who call kids like mine retards.

People who think these kids’ “bad” behaviour is the result of bad parenting.

Your attitude, and that of many like you, is one side of a coin. On the other side are those people who believe all the clichés about Autism: that people with this disorder are always geniuses, or they have some special gift (think Rainman), or whatever.

I don’t have as hard of a time tolerating those people, no matter how irritating it can be to try to dispel the myths that have cropped up around Autism, because I know they aren’t saying them out of any disdain. It comes from a place of assumptions, but not from a place of judgement.

I can be at peace with their attitude, no matter how misguided it may be.

People like you, though, make my job as an Autism parent all the harder. As it stands, I find myself constantly having to advocate for my children’s rights and needs more than a parent of “normal” children might. Even though my kids are only 5 and 3, I have already had to stand up to quite a few ignoramuses on their behalf.

I know that my children will likely have a lifetime of dealing with bullies and people like you, simply because they don’t behave like other kids, and that truly hurts my heart.

I wish we lived in a world where people remembered that there are always two sides to a story. Things are not always the way they look on the surface.

The Almighty Schedule

20150314_201637Schedules are kind of a big thing in my household.

Like many autism parents, I’m sure, we have one of those dry-erase weekly schedules hanging up on our door. The point of it, besides detailing what activities each day had in store (including the mundane stuff, like eating), is to give the kiddos peace of mind and help them ease from one activity to another. It has the space to write either the days of the week, or the whole month on it if you are so inclined, and my super-awesome partner has printed out and laminated a bunch of little clip-art pictures to indicate different activities, such as an apple for mealtimes, or a clock for appointments.

There is even a little picture with a cartoon doctor and patient, to represent… you guessed it!… doctor appointments. Remember that, because it’ll be on the test.

Last Sunday, like every Sunday, I allowed Jill to watch me while I made the schedule for that week. She likes to “help”… and by help, I mean stand there and watch while I make the schedule, and then doodle 5 or 6 pretty little stars along the bottom of the calendar after I’m done.

Hey, it gives her a feeling of accomplishment. Who am I to judge?

Anyway, when I stuck the pictures on for all the usual daily things, I started with the other stuff. I put a little clock on Wednesday and Thursday morning, to signify that she and Jack had an appointment with their OT. Since the kids are on spring break, and since I don’t have pictures of dogs to indicate when we go to walk a friend’s dog, I wrote the name “Milo” where needed.

And then, there was the little doctor picture. Remember the doctor picture?

I put the doctor on Wednesday afternoon, and wrote a little “2pm” next to it, and thought nothing further about the whole thing.

I thought nothing further about it, that is, until Tuesday afternoon. For some god-forsaken reason, I thought I should double-check the appointment time on my Outlook calendar, where I make a note of every little appointment we ever have, anywhere.

Lo and behold, as I click on Wednesday the 11th, I find…nothing.

Crap.

I click on Tuesday the 10th, wondering if I might have missed it by accident.

Nope. Nada.

I stare blankly at my computer screen for a moment, a sudden feeling of dread coming over me. A little voice at the back of my head whispered: “Well, you fucked up.”

The kids were oblivious to my despair. They sat at their little table, colouring in a couple of activity books.
I eyed them carefully.

Then, like a desperate parent smuggling a freshly bought chocolate bar into their secret stash, I slowly put my laptop down on the couch. I quietly got up off the couch, wincing and shooting a glance at the kids every time the couch squeaked. I shuffled into the front hall, my back turned to the living room, and quickly moved the doctor picture over to Thursday.

“What you doing, Mommy?” Jill’s delicate little voice piped up, from directly behind me.

“FUCKING HELL!” I exclaimed, whirling around. “You scared the crap out of me! I’m fixing a boo-boo, honey.”

“You don’t say ‘fucking’, Mommy, you say freaking,” she informed me.

“Um. Sure,” I replied, forcing a smile. Straightening up, I tried my best to casually stroll back into the living room as if nothing happened… nothing was different.

Jill stood there in front of the wall schedule. She started crying. Jack, still sitting at the table, starting crying in sympathy.

Crap. Double crap.

Jill loves going to the doctor. She’d been looking forward to the appointment all week, even though she’s not sick and the whole point of the appointment was just to get a referral to another type of doctor. Nonetheless, the mistake was practically earth shattering as far as she was concerned.

I rushed back to my little girl, and started to comfort her, saying that I made a mistake and put the doctor picture on the wrong day. It took me 15 minutes to get her to stop crying, and when I did, she finally spoke up: “It’s in the wrong place.”

“I know, honey. I made a little mistake, putting the picture on the wrong day. We’ll go on Thursday instead.”

Jill appeared to accept that reassurance, just then, but appearances can be deceptive. In fact, in the couple of hours between that moment and dinner time, she positioned herself in front of the calendar what must have been 50 more times and stared at it. Even while she was colouring, or eating her meal later on, she repeated several times that the appointment was going to be on Thursday and not Wednesday, and that I had put the picture in the wrong time slot.

See… you just don’t mess with the schedule. Once you make it, it might as well be set in stone. It’s though you have climbed that mountain and chiseled it into those two tablets, because you might as well be Moses, with his Commandments.

The Bedtime Ritual

5f98828d2d81f27b0478d9828f7a372aMy kids are creatures of habit.

Well, perhaps it’s more accurate to say they are creatures of routine.

Jack and Jill can be flexible, when it comes to what goes on during their day, don’t get me wrong. They roll with the punches, as it were. As my partner and I have come to discover, however, there just some things that you don’t mess with.

Ever.

Not even if the house were on fire, and getting out alive meant Jill couldn’t wash her hands after going potty (because then you would have a house fire AND a screaming meltdown on your hands).

Not even if the richest person in the world offered you obscene amounts of money, but collecting it meant you had to pick it up at the doors of Walmart without actually going in to shop.

You just don’t mess with that kind of thing.

Here’s the deal, though: you can change a routine by adding to it, without any incident. If you take any part of it away… well… heaven forbid. I’m sure taking items away from a set routine is a popular activity for masochistic A.S.D parents.

I, however, am not a masochist.

With that being said, as I reflect on some of the weirder routines my kids have, I suppose I am probably a glutton for punishment.

For instance, the rational part of me knows not to add anything new to the bedtime ritual. After all, once something new is said or done, it can never be taken away, ever, until the end of your life as you know it. In fact, it’s this particularly idiotic trait of mine that has led to the bedtime ritual being the way it is. I shudder at the thought of an onlooker witnessing this nightly show.

Imagine, if you will, a small bedroom, crowded with furniture and toys. Imagine two small kids who are expert climbers and mischief makers. Imagine a little boy who has his own bed, but refuses to sleep in it because he likes to be near his sister.

There is a mom who, exhausted from the day, shuffles the kids into a darkened bedroom lit only by a night light, because the little boy’s compulsive fascination with flicking switches has led to the dad duct-taping the damn light switch in the “off” position.

Mom checks the room for hidden dangers because, if there is one, her kids will surely find it. It’s certainly part of Murphy’s Law and, well… Murphy’s Law is what masquerades as this particular Mom’s luck.

After a thorough look, she picks up certain stuffed animals as the kids hop up onto the bed: three little horses (Crystal, Tazzy and Jasper, after the ones Jill rides at therapy), a brown bunny, a Hello Kitty doll, Sick Bear- a giant teddy bear that is as big as Jill- a small black teddy bear, and a sock monkey doll.

The kids stand on the bed, waiting eagerly for their turn. Jill is first, and it goes like this:

Me: “Wipe your face.”

Slobbery kisses and a tight hug follow.  I’m pretty sure Jill thinks the words “wipe your face” are followed by an unspoken “on Mommy’s face”.

Crystal, the white horse, starts off this part of the routine.

Me: “Where does Crystal go?”

Jill: “On my left arm!”

I put the white horse down on her left arm.

Me: “Where does Tazzie go?”

Jill: “On my right arm!”

I put the brown horse down on her right arm.

Me: “Where does Jasper go?”

Jill: “On my left arm!”

I put the brown horse with the white mane and tail on her left arm.

Me: “Where does Bunny go?”

Jill: “On my right arm!”

I put Bunny next to Tazzie.

Me: “Where does Hello Kitty go?”

Jill: “On my chest!”

Hello Kitty goes smack in the middle of it all.

Me: “Where does Sick Bear go?”

Jill (with squeals and giggles): “On my face!!!”

Then, I count to three, yell “Bonzai!” and drop the giant teddy bear on her face. All you can see is a pile of stuffed animals, not unlike the one in the picture above (except, you know, inside) topped with the over-sized Sick Bear, with only two little feet sticking out at the end.

Jack’s part in this bit is thankfully simpler. With him, it’s a matter of counting to three before dropping the black teddy bear and the sock monkey on him, followed by covering everyone and everything with a blanket.

This is not the point at which I leave; no, no, no.

Because at some point in the past I couldn’t keep my mouth shut, I now wish them goodnight this way:

“I love you both. Don’t climb on the shelves. Don’t climb on the furniture. Don’t turn on the light. Don’t open the closet. Sleep well!”

Finally (blessedly), I get to leave the room.

One day I’ll get the clue: if the routine is perfect, don’t mess with it.

The Art of Embarrassing Mom

Mom-Confessions-Most-Embarrassing-Thing-My-Kid-Has-DoneOne of the more entertaining hallmarks of Autism is the tendency toward random acts of totally inappropriate behaviour. Considering that Jack is only 3 years old, you could also chalk it up to his being a rambunctious youngster. After all, kids have an unnerving ability to say or do the wrong thing at the right time… or maybe, it’s the right thing at the wrong time.

I guess it depends on how you look at it.

Jack has mastered the art of inappropriate behaviour, a task which he seems to regard as his God-given duty.

Read on…

The Moon over Miami

It’s a fun game for Jack to reach into the grocery cart from his perch at the front, and grab the nearest thing he can find. If you’re not quick on the draw, he’ll pitch that item- no matter what it is- out of the cart.

Imagine knowing this, and having no alternative but to place that carton of eggs you just grabbed into your over-stuffed cart right behind his perch, where he can easily grab them. Imagine that you are wearing a comfortable pair of yoga pants that have no belt, and an annoying tendency to ride down your butt any time you bend over.

Grabbing his hands and holding them doesn’t work, no! Jack screams bloody murder, as if by the very the act of holding his hands you are committing a great atrocity that will be the end of his world, right then and there. Life as he knows it is over. Give the boy an Oscar!

There the eggs sit, all pristine and beckoning in their too-fragile cardboard carton, practically begging for a couple of tiny hands attached to a mischievous smile to grab them. Naturally, because his entire existence is centered around getting in trouble (as if the resulting scolding is somehow life-affirming), he waited until my attention was engaged elsewhere, grabbed the egg carton, and hurled it like he was trying out as a pitcher out for the local pro baseball team.

Fortunately, nobody was in the way of that particular projectile. Not so fortunately, the eggs practically exploded as the carton hit the ground. I, in my terribly comfortable yoga pants that have never actually seen the inside of a yoga studio, stooped down to pick up the woefully inadequate (and now yoke-filled) carton, flashing almost my entire ass- minus even my underwear because they, too, went south- to everyone behind me.

Yes indeed, the moon CAN rise in the middle of the day.

I’ll be lucky if my Moon over Miami doesn’t appear on the People of Walmart website because, with my luck, there was probably someone behind me with a cell-phone camera at the ready, and an itchy trigger finger.

The Bait and Tackle

Jack and Jill both attend several different types of therapy for their Autism, all of which take place at a local horse farm. On this farm, there happens to be a small fenced-in play area, and it was here that I placed Jack one fine day while I talked to two of his therapists not a few feet away.

While the adults chatted, Jack played happily. It didn’t take long, however, for one of his therapists to gently interrupt what I was saying by pointing over to my son.

It was a good thing it was a warm summer day because, as I looked over at him, Jack stood by the fence staring at us adults, and calmly dropped his drawers, diaper and all. He stood there with a giant grin on his face, his bait and tackle waving in the breeze, as I stared back and groped for something to say.

His therapists laughed.

“Well, that proves it,” I said, eventually. “He’s definitely his father’s son.”

The Immortal Words

The family cat is kind of a psycho beast. She loves her adult humans, and tolerates the presence of the mini humans. She has been known to be all lovey-dovey one minute, and all hissing and biting the next.

Jack, since one particular incident last year, avoids her like the plague.

My partner was out of town for a week in November, and so I was left to look after the kids by myself. We were between meals with nothing to particular to do that day, so I sat on the couch typing away on my laptop while the kids played with their toys on the living room floor.

Or, so I thought.

One moment, they were both happily engaged, and in the next moment Jack had wandered over to where the cat was laying and grooming herself. He seemed to be just looking at her, but looks can be deceiving- especially where Jack is concerned.

Our cat found out that day that my son is a quick little bugger. In a flash, he lurched forward, his little tongue darting out to lick the cat’s head, from neck to ears.

I uttered words I never thought I would ever hear myself say:

“Jack, don’t lick the cat!”

Yup… life with my family is definitely interesting.

How to Save a Life

I believe that Jill- little 5 years old Jill- has saved a life.

As we waited at the bus stop the other morning, my son in his stroller and Jill sitting on the metal bench, I was sort of keeping one eye on my kids and the other on the passing pedestrians. While Jack happily watched the cars go by and Jill sang “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” over and over again, I thought about how people tend to view Autism and those who have it.

One of the typical stereotypes that surround Autism is that people who fall on the spectrum tend to be loners, anti-social or just socially awkward. It’s a stereotype with some truth to it, but the fact is it isn’t entirely accurate.
On the one end of the scale, you have people on the Spectrum who are the loners. It’s part and parcel of the difficulties many individuals with A.S.D have with social interaction or appropriate social behaviour, after all. On the other end of the scale are those people you don’t hear as much about: the over-friendly types. They may still have problems with figuring out how to interact with their peers, or what is appropriate social behaviour in any given situation, but they tend to act like everybody is their friend. In these cases, they can be friendly with everyone to the point of being inappropriate or even dangerous.

It’s hard to tell a small child who has no concept of stranger danger that, sometimes, being friendly is not the right thing to do.

My kids fall on the latter scale, and it was that in particular that I was thinking about that morning.
Jill likes to talk to whomever she meets at the bus stop. I let her do it, despite it sometimes being hard to watch her, because I think it’s good for her to socialise with people- under controlled circumstances, anyway.

Besides, I’m not always sure where I should draw the line.

Anyway, back to my story.

It wasn’t long after we got to the bus stop that another woman entered the shelter. Jill, true to her usual self, immediately said hello.

I looked at the lady without saying anything; I just watched her interaction with my daughter. She gave Jill a little tolerant smile and said “hello” back. It was clear on her face, and in her voice, that the lady was struggling with something; she looked to be on the verge of tears, and barely holding it in. Without a second thought, Jill flashed the woman her patented thousand-watt smile and said: “I love you!”

The lady’s smile grew a hundred times brighter.

I wanted to tell Jill, just then, that she shouldn’t say those words to complete strangers.

I wanted to say she shouldn’t just throw those three words around, that she should save them for people she really cared about.

I wanted to tell her it was inappropriate, but I didn’t.lifesaver

I looked at the woman’s brilliantly smiling face, and kept my mouth shut. It was obvious those three words, seemingly said at just the right time by the right person, meant something- at least to that lady.

There is no way, between the sun and the earth, that either of us could have known what the lady was thinking.

There is no way we could know for sure what she was considering doing but maybe, just maybe, a friendly little girl with a bright smile and the right words saved her life.