It’s sometimes a double-edged sword, so to speak, when your child has Asperger’s, or mild autism. To the random outsider, she looks like a typical, energetic kid. Maybe even a little bratty. There isn’t a sign I can hang from her shoulders (not that I would want one) that tells the world “I have autism and you will have to be patient with me”. I can go out with her and there be no “episodes”. Only the select few that are at the right place at the right time get to see a show… The meltdown over a shoe tongue that is slightly leaning to the left, or the fit of rage over that stationary object that spotted Bailey coming and decided to spring to life and bump into her, …. And not everyone stops to notice the little girl* in the Wal-Mart checkout line who is spinning in circles, flapping her hands, and making crashing noises.
Heck, even at home I’m not quite sure which one I’m going to get lately. While she tends to be a little more on the quirky side at home because she relaxes here (as she should) and lets go of bottled up energy, lately I’ve gotten a few little glimpses of this child I’m not too familiar with. Out of the blue yesterday she asked me what I would do if I found $200. She NEVER asks me questions like that. Her questions are usually Toontown related, like “Why do all the toons wear white gloves?” or “Do you think I could be friends with a cog?” In the past there have been “why does 13 come before 14?” (I love trying to answer those!). But not too many questions that actually begin a real give and take conversation.
This past Sunday there was about an hour or so when she was particularly “normal” which is to say “abnormal” for her. I was piddling around, cleaning up, and she was sort of wandering around quietly. As I’ve said in the past, her wandering is never quiet. Even when she’s not busy with something like playing on the computer or with toys she is still making noises or verbalizing the playtime she’s having in her head. So I stood back and watched her to see where this was going. I see her follow Cookie, our little chihuahua, out on the balcony. I go a little closer so I can eavesdrop. I carefully peak around the corner to see what they are doing. I see Cookie with her nose up in the air, sniffing, and I see Bailey sitting down facing Cookie.
“Cookie, did you know that you’re my best friend?”
“I can tell you anything and I have something to tell you but not now because it’s not appropriate out here where people can hear.”
My curiosity is certainly peaked, but I keep quiet. There is a little more chatter.
Then silence. I sneak another glance. They are both looking down at the ground. At a bird, maybe?
Bailey starts fidgeting with her feet. She asks lightheartedly, “Cookie, do you think I’m crazy?”
I’m taken off guard and I wonder if I heard her right.
A minute later they both came back in, happy-go-lucky, and it was back to loud outbursts of laughter for no apparent reason. It didn’t seem to bother Bailey that she didn’t get an answer to her question, but it makes me wonder what in the world is going on in her head for her to use that word to describe herself. I wonder if she is beginning to notice how different she behaves from her peers. It takes me back to the pink burgers conversation and if I should think about trying the explain her diagnosis. But I’m so afraid that I’m going to screw it up. I don’t have her specialist here to help me with this. More than anything I wish I did. The appointment with a specialist here is a good six months out. So in the meantime it’s me that is left to read the books and research the web, looking for ways to help her cope, manage her sensory issues, be as abnormally normal as possible. Is it better to come clean with her diagnosis, tell her, tell the world, before I have a handle on exactly the best way to face it? Or do I cause her anxiety and heartache by confirming her suspicions of being a little different AND that it actually has a name? Or am I over thinking all of it?
One day at a time, I suppose. For now I’m just going to let her be herself. I will continue to arm myself with as much information as possible, so that when I do decide it’s time to have the talk I will have the answers that are available to give. I will make sure I know enough to feel comfortable with what I’m telling her. And I pray that she sees herself as the extraordinary blessing that I see her as.
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