Thursday, January 28, 2016

Today I Asked a Mom if Her Son Had Autism

Today I did something brave. I asked a mom if her son had autism.

I was sitting in the school lobby, waiting for Nathan's speech session to conclude. A mom walked in with her young boy, also carrying a toddler in her arms. This boy was rowdy and full of energy. He had trouble speaking. He ran past the reception area and into the teacher's lounge, and she chased after him. She stayed by his side until a classroom aide arrived to take him to class. I sat and watched the whole thing happen.

I was sitting alone so there was no reason for her to think that I could possibly know anything about her situation. In those moments, I always want to say something, but I usually don't. But if I did speak up, I would want to let the mom know that I understand, that I'm not judging, that I get what she's going through with her child. Being uncertain prevents me from speaking out, and these questions go through my mind: What if I'm totally wrong about autism? What if the parent hadn't had their child diagnosed yet and I'm bringing up tough feelings for the parent? What if the parent yelled at me?

Nathan came back before this mother left. As fate would have it, we walked out of the school at the same time. She was walking a few feet in front of me with her toddler. I grabbed Nathan's hand to keep him from running into the street and said,

"Hi there! Does your son have autism?"

She turned to look at me and smiled. No judgment on her face at all. "Yes, he does."

"Oh, my daughter is 12, and she has autism, too, though she's not as rowdy as your little guy!"

"Oh, she's 12?"

There was an awkward pause. I said, "I don't usually say anything to people when I see a child with autism, because I don't want to be rude. But I did today. I just felt like I needed to. I hope it's okay."

"Sure, I don't mind at all. I'm not offended." She smiled again.

"Oh good. Well, I just thought it would be nice for you to know that I understand, and that you are not alone in this journey."

"Thanks!" She walked to her car, and I walked to mine.

I don't know if I'll ever see her again. But I'm glad I said something this time. I hope it makes her day go a little better, just knowing that someone close by understands. It sure made me feel better.

Sometimes being brave is actually being kind, and giving a person the chance to connect even if it's only for a moment, to let them know they are not alone. It's about being a friend.


  1. good for you and her! it was very brave of you and I am glad she wasn't offended , sometimes it's hard to know how others will react to openness xx

  2. It is so hard to speak up sometimes, absolutely! Good on you x

  3. Thanks, friends! :) I'll be more brave next time.