Is your daughter autistic too?
Now that’s a question to wake you up pretty fast on a Wednesday morning when you drop your kids off at school. But if I’m truthful with myself I know that this is a question that I knew I was going to face at some point with Princess joining Johnny at the same school. It was a question asked by a wonderful little girl Johnny’s known since junior kindergarten who’s always been so very helpful. She told me that her and her friends help Johnny and Michael when they come into the Grade 2 class and when they’re doing projects. She said she normally pairs up with Michael. So what did I say at that moment when I feel put on the spot with lots of kids around including Johnny?
Did I mention that there is a teacher from the multi-exceptionalities classroom standing there looking at me while she’s trying to be the school yard entrance monitor (she’s got many many years special ed experience) but she can’t jump in at that moment to help me. She tries instead to do a massive re-direction to get the kids back into the yard to help me out. I said goodbye to my daughter Princess and told her to let the other girls show her where to store her bag so that she could go and play before the bell. Johnny was standing beside me but was being hugged to bits by his many girl friends at school and was super excited so I don’t think he heard what I was about to say. I motioned for the little girl who asked me the question to come back over to me. I thanked her for asking me the question and that I thought it’s beautiful that not only that she asked me the question but that she and her friends are so helpful. I told her that even though Johnny and Princess are brother and sister, she is not autistic but Johnny and Michael are and we appreciate her understanding.
So now the big question is is how does the girl know about Autism how does she know the word? Is it being used at school? There is an ISP Autism (Intensive Support) classroom at the school next door to the office and are they calling it by its full name at school around the other children? I need to know as a mother because as I’ve talked to a good friend of mine who’s been in this position already was an older boy it’s time to have the conversation with Johnny about being autistic. He’s a very smart boy who is now verbal and is trying to become a good social communicator and articulator but it’s time to have the big conversation. But first I think I need to do some detective work at school and find out what’s being said and how so I have a starting point. Do I know if he’s heard the term before? Yes when we’re on vacation in the summer I asked him just randomly about Autism and if he’s heard the word before and he said yes. The other day I tried to ask a similar question and he said “no” and he changed the subject very quickly. As we figure out how to approach the topic of Autism with our son it might be a good time to ask Johnny’s school if they do any “Peer Awareness” training.
What about Princess? What do I teach her? What if other children ask her questions about her brother? What does she say? I feel guilty putting this on her shoulders. It seems to much for a sweet little girl to have to deal with. I know because its overwhelming for me and her Daddy at times still.
I welcome any feedback and thoughts of how to take these next steps….