Did you ever see the Mary Poppins movie from the 60’s? I was four years old when my Nana Bevington took me to see it. I loved the singing and dancing, but I couldn’t understand why the adults acted the way they did, especially when the children left.
The mother was busy working on “Votes for Women!”. The father had a strict social protocol, with his own packed agenda. It was hard to get their attention to report the children were missing. The mother finally heard and nervously interrupted the gadding about. “Dear, it’s about the children…”
Telling family members and friends about your child being diagnosed with autism can be just as difficult to master, minus the song and dance. I first heard about my eldest son having autism on the phone with a school psychologist. Thankfully, I’m told they no longer disclose over a casual chat.
Don’t do what I did. I hung up the phone, leaned on the sink, and stared out my kitchen window into the back yard while I ate an entire bag of candy. Then, I picked up the phone again and started frantically punching in numbers. I called everybody and anybody. Those closest denied it from the get-go:
“Absolutely not! (knowing chuckle) Well, she is wrong.“
“Did you see her hands at the last meeting? How can someone who has no fingernails from biting be a reliable expert on anything?”
“There’s nothing wrong with that child that a little discipline can’t cure.”
“Just get happy in the Lord and stop worrying.”
This was not helpful. The candy made me sicker to my stomach than I already was. I was worried and frightened that those who were figuring out how to help my son were tragically flawed (being so freaked in those meetings, I never noticed an absence of nails). I was embarrassed knowing others thought my child was a brat. I was ashamed that some implied we were bad parents. I was shocked to wonder if a lack of faith had landed us in this pickle.
Being technologically Amish, I set off for the public library to research autism. I found a couple of medical dictionaries, a book by someone with autism, and less than a handful of memoirs written from a parent’s perspective. Although so many more families are now finding themselves in this same pickle, at least we have more information. There are quite a few autism book “pushers”. The amount of information with varying opinions is enough to make one’s head spin a la The Exorcist.
Here’s what I did with the information. I still stick by this: I’m looking for my children in everything I read and hear. There were only two books I can recall leaving me with an impression of hope and information I could use. Since then, I’ve been fortunate to read many books that have been helpful. Now I want to re-read those first two books to see what they ‘feel’ like today:
The Siege by Clara Claiborne Park
Thinking in Pictures by Temple Grandin
No one can tell us more about our children than our children. However, these two authors handed me a flashlight for what was then a very dark tunnel. Would you hand me your Mary Poppins? Tell me what you read that made the biggest difference, especially in the beginning. No cross talk. This is personal. There is someone out there who needs a spark to light their way.
I sure wish I had you in my carpet bag when it was time for me to say, “About the children…”
Tags: Alison Davis, autism, Autism Society of North Carolina Bookstore, disclosure, momof3au