SILVER SPRING, Md., June 14, 2011 — A while back, I was alone at the grocery store checking out, when a man and his son got in line behind me. He asked me a question about one of my items, then we both went back to what we were doing—me using the self-checkout, him chatting with his son.
Then, from the corner of my eye, I started to notice things. I saw the way the boy was acting, I noticed his stims, and I heard the way the father was talking to him, and it started to become clear to me that this kid had a developmental disability similar to my son Jack’s.
I wanted to say, “Me too! Me too! We’re part of the same club!”
But of course I didn’t, because I think that might have been weird.
We chatted a little more, about the M&Ms the boy had non-verbally convinced his father to buy and the fruit that he was going to try to get his kid to eat first. (Ha, ha, ha, ha, ha!)
I smiled at them, and when I left, I told the boy, “Enjoy your M&Ms!”
“Say ‘thank you,’” the man said to the boy, just like I have said to Jack a million times before and in the same tone.
I had said, “Enjoy your M&Ms,” but what I really wanted to say was, “I get it. Your son reminds me of mine. Your son is adorable, and you are so good with him. I’m so glad I met you. I get it.”
Autism can be an invisible disability—unless you know what to look for. I am so immersed in my family’s quirkiness that I feel like it is written across my face, but when I don’t have my kids with me, I know I look just like everyone else. Sometimes our status as special needs isn’t even evident when my kids are around.
But what I want to say is, “Me too. I get it.”
Jean writes a personal blog at Stimeyland and an autism-events website for Montgomery County, Maryland, at AutMont. You can find her on Twitter as @Stimey. Read more of Jean’s work at Autism Unexpected in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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