"to talk of many things:
of shoes, and ships, and sealing wax..."
and that my kid has Autism and Sensory Processing Disorder and Language Processing Disorder.
And honestly? Would be so. much. happier. talking about shoes. Or even cabbages.
My brilliant little Bear is catching on. To, I dunno. Something. He's noticing stuff and asking questions. Questions with very difficult answers.
Like - after recovering enough to notice his Daddy and I discussing a meltdown - "Mommy, what's dis-reg-oo-ated?"
And a couple of weeks ago, when he finally noticed this:
It was in plain sight for ages. He just never noticed. Until he did. And one day about two weeks ago he presented it to me while I was making dinner and asked what it is. Because while you're stressed out at the end of a long day with a knife in one hand and a dead chicken in the other is the perfect time to explain autism to a 4 year old, right?
The nice (?) thing is that I have sensory issues of my own. So far, what we've said to explain things like him being the only one wearing headphones in a restaurant is that "our brains are a little bit different" and that can make some things like being in a noisy place uncomfortable for us.
I also have compulsive issues, so I've been able to genuinely understand where he's coming from when we're stuck in some awful loop, like when the bus is coming and he really needs to get his shoes on RIGHT. NOW. but he can't because the kitchen stools aren't lined up in a perfect diagonal and OMG MOMMY YOU CAN'T PUT THE LEFT SHOE ON FIRST. Sometimes a simple "I understand that you need to finish this, can I help so we make the bus on time?" works wonders. He may or may not let me help, but he calms down because he's no longer on the defensive. And I can do it because I understand that awful "must do this crazy thing or the world will end" feeling.
So. Back to that night in the kitchen. I took a deep breath, thought fast and came up with this...
You know how sometimes things are a little harder for you? How you get sad and don't have your words? And how sometimes you need your headphones or to line up the chairs to feel better? That has a name.
Loooong pause. Because OMG OMG OMG don't make me say the name. Please, for the love of pasta, don't make me say the name. Because I wasn't ready to say it to him. Not like that.
And he didn't make me say it. He just said "ok" and wandered off to put the magnet back where he found it.
I know I got off lucky. And I know now that it's time to have this talk with him.
It was surprisingly easy to have that other "talk" with him. The one where you have to explain female anatomy? Yeah, piece of cake. He asked recently what girls have if they don't have penises (again, out of the blue and while I was making dinner). I was too busy to overthink it, so I told him just as blandly as if he'd asked me if it tomorrow was a school day. And it was fine.
One of Bear's "things" is that a noun is not, apparently, happy all by itself. That's why ketchup is "ketchup made out of tomatoes" but all rushed like one big word - ketchupmadeoutoftomatoes.
Why is why he will tell anyone who will listen that girls have a fachinathatbabiescomeoutof.
Which is to say... I need better material before he asks about autism again. Because he will. Because he's catching on, and I want to be ready next time he asks.
And because we just got this totally awesome shirt from ThinkGeek and I can't wait for him to wear it with pride.
If you had the autism talk with your child, please drop me a comment and either tell me how it went or link to your blog if you wrote about it. I'm not interested in what a book by a clinician says I should say. I want to know what real moms said to real kids.