I have to confess I have never been one to shout from the rooftops that my son has autism. I don’t post personal stories on Facebook or other social media. I don’t bring it up around friends too much. I’m not ashamed of C, and I’m not trying to hide it. It’s just not something I did. Until now of course. Talk about shouting from the rooftop. I’m writing a blog about our lives!
Since C’s diagnosis, I feel like I’ve started living in this bubble. The bubble of autism. My world, our world revolves around his autism. We make plans and change our attitude to suit him better. To avoid meltdowns, to make him more comfortable in this environment. And here I am, little naive Kristina thinking everyone knows about autism and how to act and what to do around C. I got a lesson in this in the summer of 2017.
C attended the special needs ministry Sunday school at our church. Through hard work, he successfully transferred to the regular, neuro-typical developing Sunday school class. First, he came with an aid and eventually he was on his own.
Soon it was time to move to a second-grade class. Before he started the new class I like to talk to the head volunteer and let them know about some of C’s delays. I always say that as long as he is not hurting anyone and is not disruptive, then he is doing well and is paying attention. Even if it doesn’t seem like it. As soon as I mentioned the word Autism during my conversation with the head volunteer she tells me about the Special Needs ministry. I let her know he doesn’t need that class. He is high functioning enough that he is fine on his own.
We go back and forth a few Sundays and C ends up back in Special Needs ministry class.
In the class, they give C a choice every Sunday. He can go with an aid to the regular second-grade class or he can play with toys and puzzles in the special needs class. Which one do you think he chose every time? There is nothing wrong with that. But I felt he needed to be challenged and needed to be around kids his own age. I took him back to the typical class. Needless to say, the head volunteer was not happy. I wanted to understand how horrible was my kid that he was discouraged from being in the class?
I observed C in the class setting for three Sundays. Let me tell you. He was calm, well behaved and followed directions. Why was he not allowed in the class? I talked to other volunteers and no one had any issues with C. After talking to the head volunteer once more I learn that she’s uncomfortable because he doesn’t participate all the time and sometimes just sits quietly by himself. And that apparently bothered her and she thought he would have a better time in the special needs class. I explained to her that he is paying attention and talks about how much fun he had and what he learned every Sunday.
From this whole situation, I was getting upset. Mad even.
I was angry at this woman. In my mind, she thought C was not good enough or smart enough to be in the class. I knew that wasn’t true. I just couldn’t understand why she didn’t want him in the class. it was eating me up inside.
I knew I had to pray about it. I didn’t know what to pray for exactly. I just prayed that I wasn’t so angry. I wanted peace in my heart and understanding for what was going on.
And you know what? One day God spoke to me. Not in a far away, echo-y, masculine voice like in the movies. But in a thought that just entered my mind that I knew was not my own.
“She doesn’t understand what autism is. She doesn’t know how to treat him. She doesn’t know how to act around him. She doesn’t know. Teach her. Tell her. Give her the tools she needs.”
What? How is someone still not familiar with Autism? Isn’t everyone aware already? Doesn’t everyone know?
No, they don’t!
And we need to teach them! We need to make them aware.
Sometimes it can be difficult with children who don’t display the typical or stereotypical traits and symptoms of autism. So I looked up ALL and ANY characteristics of autism. And I made a spreadsheet. (c spreadsheet an example)
That’s right, a spreadsheet. One column was a list of characteristics. The next column was how these characteristics are displayed in C’s behavior. and the last column is advice on how to react to C and how to help/prompt him if he needs it.
The next Sunday I handed the volunteer the spreadsheet and talked to her a little more about C.
C hasn’t had any complaints or concerns since. He enjoys Sunday school very much and wants to go back every Sunday.
I learned that not everyone is familiar with autism. I learned that sometimes I need to understand where the other person is coming from. I learned that knowledge is power. I learned that God speaks.
“Let the wise listen and add to their learning” Proverbs 1:5