Tuesday, July 21, 2015

What Does Our Daughter's Autism Look Like?

She's at a movie theater, she is sitting next to me, legs folded "cris-cross-applesauce." She keeps her eyes peeled on the screen, pausing every few seconds to scrunch her tiny nose.  "What does despicable mean?"

"It means really bad, please whisper," I say "We are in a movie theater.  It is a quiet place."  She stares intently still, not removing her eyes from the screen.  She rhythmically pulls on the bracelet that surrounds her slender wrist.

"What does villain mean?"

"It means a bad person, remember," I say "We are in a quiet place." I shift in my seat.

She rocks gently back and forth in hers.

We are at the library, a gentleman is there to showcase snakes, a special viewing for children.  Around us are parents and small children of various ages.  Before us is the presenter and aquariums covered with sheets.  My daughter sits in front of me, surrounded by her siblings.  "Does anyone have any questions before I begin?" Several hands rise.

"When are you going to take the sheet off?" She yells.

"You can't shout out," I gently say "You must raise your hand."

"Are there snakes in there?" She hollers over me and the crowd.

I put my finger to my lip.  She looks through everyone as if she is the only one in the room.

Her brother's foot gently brushes the back of her leg. "Stop touching me!" She yells.  "You know I don't like it when you touch me!"

I can feel the stares sinking into the back of me.

We are at the ball field, an earned promise to our children, a game of baseball and a picnic on the field.  Her siblings are laughing and running despite the heat and sweat that is overcoming them; gloved hands, tightly gripped bats, soaring balls.  There are smiles everywhere.

Inside the dugout she sits, alone, book in hand.  Completely content to not participate.  She does not feel left out.  She is partially in her own world, and partially taking in the world around her, trying to grasp how it operates and what feels right to her.  She is learning what parts she wants to own and what parts she wants to discard.  She is figuring out how to be graceful in a setting  that was designed for those less unique than she was created.

It is not easy, it is not comfortable, but she is doing it day by day.  This, is our daughter's autism.

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