*From December 2013 Delay of posting due to ice storm.
We were being adventurous last Saturday going for dinner, downtown at the big mall during Christmas time. We had just bought a dishwasher and the time had gotten away from us and it was dinner time. The new food court at the mall is now big, large, upscale, variety of choices, busy, crowded and loud. We luckily found ourselves on a short wait list for one of the few sit down restaurants in the mall. It was a pizza trattoria that was a little noisy but the lights were turned down low and it had food that both Johnny and Princess would eat. Normally I don’t like sitting too close to the kitchen but in this restaurant it served for a visual distraction for Johnny watching the waiters come when they were called and delivering the food. Little did I know that the table next to us would soon have an occupant that gave him a more welcoming distraction.
When we sat down there were two young women sitting and eating and Johnny seemed to be more interested in commenting on what they were eating and not paying attention to them. After they left a young couple sat down and a new girl was now occupying the seat diaganonly facing Johnny. I noticed right away she caught his attention and I saw him look right at her and give her a little smile. She smiled back. From time to time I saw him looking in that direction but I assumed he was looking just past her head because there were TV’s that had hockey and basketball games on. It wasn’t until dinner was over and we were ready to leave I clued in. Johnny was drinking his water slowly and was insisting he needed to finish it. I sat back down and let Daddy take Princess away from the table to get ready to leave. It was then I noticed that direct look and big smile he gave the girl at the next table. She smiled back and then he grinned again and smiled.
One of the big things about Autism that professionals always mention is the lack of eye contact and the importance of shift gazing. SLP’s are always making sure Johnny looks them in the eye when he is talking to them and looking at what they have in their hand and back again. At school his Autism teacher wants Johnny to make sure when he talks to someone he at least gives them one strong look so they know he is talking to them but doesn’t require him to maintain the gaze because he knows that is a lot to ask. As a parent I have accidentally slipped and asked Johnny too look at me when I am telling him something important forgetting momentarily that he hears everything and I don’t have to do that. I cringe when I hear friends or relatives asking him to “look at me Johnny” because they think he is ignoring them.
So here I am observing my six year old boy who happens to also be Autistic sit in a restaurant making eyes and smiling at a pretty girl. My son was innocently flirting and this Mommy couldn’t be prouder.