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December 15, 2011

The Autism Question

What is Autism?

You can Google that phrase and find thousands of instant answers, all except the one you'll need when your teen is sitting with a group at school, who don't know she's autistic, and they ask that question.

In a perfect world her response should be "Ask me, not the group. I'm the expert, because I'm the one who's autistic." But this isn't a perfect world and she's not ready for that yet.

So instead, I find myself Googling "How to talk to school kids about autism". . .and needless to say, that search was useless. All I get are expert opinions on How to Talk to an Autistic Child. . .ummm figured that out long ago.

So I try searching "How to talk to Normal school kids about autism". . .and I get nothing but "advice" about autistic children attending Normal schools.

And let's face it, we autistic parents hate the word Normal because our kids are not Abnormal or Different, they are just autistic.

I could keep searching for days and not find any useful information on how my teen should handle this situation, so I'm crying uncle after only two useless searches.

I've always been a firm believer that you can Google anything. Now, I'm amending that opinion to: you can Google anything but useful information on how to deal with questions like these from your autistic child.

That said, I just went with my gut instinct. I told my teen that the next time her classmates start discussing autism and asking questions, she should just tell them to "Ask my mother" she's autistic and so is my little brother.

Almost 16yo Jessie's response to that suggestion was "Won't they figure out that I'm autistic too?" and I replied, "probably, but would that be so bad?"

That's what we are working toward in our house. "Coming out from under the safety blanket of autism." I'm sick and tired of hiding under that blanket and hoping that no one, outside of teachers and therapists, equates the word "Autistic" with our family.

There is such a thing as being too safe, living in too much of a bubble and not facing the world and its realities.

The safety blanket was necessary when my autistic children were very young, because I like all parents want to protect my children from as much as possible.

The safety blanket, however, no longer works for my high school student and it isn't going to help in college and beyond.

I want my teen to embrace who she is and be as comfortable as possible in her own skin.

It isn't easy being autistic but Jessie has some amazing talents that normal kids can only dream of, so why should she hide under a blanket and pretend autism doesn't exist.


P.S. For those with young autistic children, there really are autism blankets which are weighted to help meet children's sensory needs and provide a cozy, calm, safe feeling. Just Google Autism Blanket and you'll get tons of options.

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