A family's story

Editor’s Note: This could also be known as “The Day I was not smarter than an 8 year-old”.

I am carpooling with the neighbor family again. Their nanny takes the kids to school, and I pick them up. Tate takes the bus to school, though, so he isn’t in the mix. I pick him up early, so he’s not in the car on the ride home.

Jake and Sis are 3rd graders. They’ve known our routine for a while. They know Tate is a little different. Sis likes to asks several questions about Tate. I know she listens quite attentively when I talk to her mom about Tate and his progress/therapy/delays. I know my neighbor has told her daughter that Tate has Autism.

Bro is a kindergartener. He is new to our pick-up routine. He asked, again, where Tate was when I picked the kids up from school. I told him that Tate was home doing therapy.

Bro: What’s therapy?

Me: Oh, um, it’s skills-building activities for Tate because he needs some extra help with learning.

Jake: It’s like going to a class or something. You learn stuff.

Bro: Oh, ok.

Sis: Bro, Tate has, has, um Aw…AWT-ISM. You know what that is, right?

Bro: No.

Sis: Well, Tate was born different than us. He’s different.

Gaahhh!! Yes, he’s different…I can’t dispute that..but, er, well…I don’t need these kids going around talking about how “different” my kid is….and then again, I guess that’s just something I need to get used to, isn’t it? Tate is different. It’s not bad. Just…different.

Me: Well, his brain works a little differently from ours. Tate is like us in many ways, but he is also different, too. It’s kind of like a mini-van and a car. They are similar, but different. Like, a van has sliding doors and a rear-lift, and requires some different maintenance than a car that has 4 doors that swing open and shut and a trunk.

Sis: I guess. You know, we all think differently. 

Me: Yes, we do think differently…we all have our own opinions and thoughts. But it’s more than that. It’s just that Tate’s brain works in a way unlike the rest of us. Not bad.

Bro: Oh, ok. I think having Autism would be cool. Cuz, well, you can punch Tate in the stomach and he doesn’t cry.

Me: Uhhh….(How the hell do I respond to THAT?!)

And with that, Bro & Sis jumped out of our car and into their driveway. Fail. Fail. Fail…..I failed my kids. I failed at a great opportunity to make these kids aware of autism and how it affects us..how it affects Tate.

The larger part of this issue is that I am absolutely frustrated with Sis. I bristle at many things she says lately. I am probably taking things wayyyyy too personally from an EIGHT YEAR OLD…but she is  an 8-year-old who is very smart and very clever…and knows too much for her own good. The past few mornings as we wait for Tate’s bus, she comes out with her brother and waits with us…but it becomes a running commentary on her part about how weird/different/awkward my kids are. Jake is still using training wheels?! I can’t even get on a  bike with those anymore! Can’t he balance on a bike? Does Tate ride a bike? Your boys don’t really like riding bikes. They only ride scooters. Jake has the “easy” teacher for 3rd grade.  I don’t know how to cut it off other than to say “that’s enough” and move along to attend to my weird/different/awkward kids. I KNOW my kids are weird/different/awkward…I don’t need one of their peers constantly making remarks about it.

Well, I need to go figure out a better way to explain Autism to the kids we know…I can see that we’re finally to the age where I will need to start giving the “elevator” speech about this life of ours….and how weird/different/awkward it is.

The key, though, is to also share the beauty, upside, and unique nature of our life. How we can enjoy the little things more..because the little things aren’t so little. How we have all become more accepting, more forgiving, more understanding….


Comments on: "Kid-friendly Autism “Elevator” Speech…fail" (8)

  1. I don’t think I would car pool any more! Ha, no really, I can just feel the prickly feeling you feel with this girl. It does sound like she is insecure. These comments all revert back to being all about her and her life above it all in comparison. I don’t think a lot of adults understand much less an 8 year old. I know you’ll find the right words. We have an organization here called “A Touch of Understanding” that does presentations to schools about many differently abled people, including those with autism, what it’s like and how to respect those who have it. Maybe there is a similar group in your area that can give you ideas on how to approach this young girl. For my part, I will ask our organization on their facebook page… Perhaps someone will come up with a plan. (((Hugs)))

    • Karen, for a day or two there, I really thought about saying we were done…but then I took a deep breath and got over myself. 🙂 I do think that it’s somewhat of an attention-getting device. She likes to stir the pot…all around. So, I can’t take it personally. I am researching better ways to handle this..and better ways to explain how Autism affects our lives and Tate’s life. Always something, ya know?? Thanks for the reference to “A Touch of Understanding.” I will look into what they do..I’m sure I can glean a little info from them!!

  2. I have so been there trying to explain the very complex nature of Autism to friends of my children and having a difficult time because there is still so much that I even have to learn and I live with a person on the spectrum! I think your car/minivan metaphor was quite effective. If you are going to be carpooling for a while, that should give you lots of time to work on helping them to understand.

    • Thanks!! It is an evolutionary process…as my son grows and reaches milestones, the way Autism affects our lives changes. It’s so organic. It can be very difficult to explain. I appreciate that you get this..although, it stinks that it is such a difficult conversation, right?

  3. Have you thought of talking to their mom? If you talk to her openly then she should be fairly knowledgable/comfortable with who your kids are. She will also be less defensive when talking to her own kid. I would def let her know the direction you’d like their conversation to go. I don’t know if that’s the right way to go. I haven’t had to deal with this yet. I hope it gets worked out though. I’d hate for you to lose the help of morning drop offs or for sis and bro to simply move on without getting a better understanding.

    • I really should talk to my neighbor. I know she’d be receptive to working with us to tell the kids about Autism and how it affects our family and Tate. Thanks for your support!!

  4. Wow. I wish I had an answer for you on this one. I have heard of some kid-friendly Autism books…. maybe something like this? http://www.amazon.com/Everybody-Is-Different-Brothers-Sisters/dp/1931282064/ref=pd_sim_sbs_b_8

    I’d love to hear what you find out… Little Miss is headed for some of the same types of situations as Tate with her little BFF, Sophie.

    Hugs, and hang in there!

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