Michael, my 10 yo asked me this recently. He had heard me on the phone with Big Coach, discussing the fundraiser we are doing with Parents Run AMOC (Autism Move a thon Orange County). I used the word “autism” quite a few times and when I was done with the call, Michael asked me his question. And, even though I know several parents of autistic children, and I have read several magazine articles and blogs on the topic, I couldn’t answer the question. Here I was lighting up my facebook page blue and posting all the “April is Autism awareness month” fliers and I was clueless.
All I could think of was my friend Patty's tattoo. She recently got a tattoo for her son, who has autism, which is a colorful jigsaw puzzle with a piece missing. All I could think of was the missing piece. I told him I needed to check the Encyclopedia but that I believed Autism is when a chromosome is missing. “No, Mommy, you’re thinking of Down Syndrome,” said my 10 yo. “But in Down syndrome, the person has an EXTRA chromosome.” I quickly googled it on my phone. He was right, as usual. “Mom, you didn’t know what Down Syndrome is,” said Christian, my 12 yo. I hate when they make me feel stupid. The truth is there are just so many things I don’t know but I am always willing to learn.
So we looked it up on the internet. According to Autism Speaks: “Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and autism are both general terms for a group of complex disorders of brain development. These disorders are characterized, in varying degrees, by difficulties in social interaction, verbal and nonverbal communication and repetitive behaviors.” I looked up hopefully from the computer and asked Michael if that explained things. “That was just a lot of big words,” he said. And he was right, that was about as clear as mud.
Well, I said, do you know anyone who is autistic? “How would I know, Mommy, if I don’t know autism is,” he said. If this were cross examination and I were his witness, he would have nailed that one.
I feel really duty bound to make the most out of these teachable moments. My kids won’t always be coming to me with the “Why and How” questions, and I do my best to answer them in a way that will teach them something. I went to my friend Laura’s Blog, which is about special needs parenting, specifically, her journey with her oldest son, who has autism. And who Michael met at a “Photo shoot” at the Boathouse recently. “I liked Jack, he was really nice,” said Michael, “he really liked the Resolute,” which is our flagship crew shell, our newest 8+, a 60-foot long crew shell which was in the slings. He’s got good taste, that’s for sure. We read some of the Blog entries.
I asked Michael if reading the blogs was helpful. “Yes,” he said. “So autism just means you think differently?” That sounded right. “It’s OK, mommy, I know you can’t explain everything. I just don’t understand why that’s a fundraiser, don’t we all think differently?”
Yes, Little Michael, we do all think differently. If only we could all see the world through a child’s eyes.
Do join us for the Zumba Fundraiser we will be having for the Newburgh Rowing Club and the Parents Run AMOC, at the Stewart Gym, Saturday May 24th at 6 pm. Tickets are $15.00 each and there will be refreshments and raffles as well. Zumba superstar Kattya Fernandez (who has a son that coaches at NRC) and friends have generously donated their time to these great causes. For more info, contact Mrs. Lo at firstname.lastname@example.org. All proceeds will be split equally between the two groups.
Have a great Saturday, everyone and remember to Count Your Blessings! <3 Mrs. Lo (thank you for longtime friend Patty Donnelly for use of the photo of her new tattoo)