I told my mom yesterday how I explained their Autism to my kids, and she asked me to write this up. so this is for her.
DK came to me sometime -oh – almost exactly two years ago now, (time really does move on, amazingly) and he asked “Mom; Do I have Autism?” Yes. “What’s Autism?” The question of the era, right? But what if it’s not a doctor with lots of education doing the asking– but a 13 yr old trying to understand himself… Well- that was one of those golden moments of inspiration; here we go.
There are all kinds of bathroom stalls in the world–
There are the tiny little Kindergarten ones that seem big when you are 5, but are actually pretty short when you grow up.
There are the slightly bigger walls in the elementary schools.
There are the “almost-tall-enough” stalls in the high schools 🙂
The tall, nearly private stalls in movie theaters,
And even the incredibly tall, fancy, stall walls in the nicer hotels.
Autism is like the wall around a Bathroom Stall. The person is just a person on the inside- but he is locked inside a wall that interferes with how well he can see and understand and communicate with the people on the other side.
Some people have very short walls, like those kindergarten walls. This is like the end of the Autism Spectrum we call High Functioning. (“where you are, my son”) For people inside this kind of bathroom stall, when all is calm and normal, they can see over the wall really well. They can talk and giggle and interact with the rest of the world without anyone really noticing the wall between them. But if there is something surprising come up, or they feel sick or in pain, or something hits their trigger– it’s like a bit of wet floor, and they slip and fall. There on the ground- not only do they hurt, but they can’t see over the wall, either. It doesn’t matter how short or tall the wall is, they still can’t tell anyone what is wrong or even get comforted until they recover enough to get their feet under them and stand up far enough to see over the wall again.
Some people have really tall walls. That doesn’t mean they aren’t any less of a person inside, it just means that they have a hard time seeing over the wall. All sorts of modern knowledge and efforts have been used to try to help. Most therapies are designed to either work on the communicating (talking to the people on the other side of the wall) or interaction part of their struggle.. it’s a false notion that it opens the door; it’s more like giving them a step-stool to stand on so they can see over their wall. Then they can be part of the world, as long as they are feeling steady.
On the other side of the wall, there are all kinds of people too. There are the ones who only come into the bathroom to look at themselves in the mirror. They don’t notice anyone else in the room, so don’t let it get to you if they don’t look at you either. There are the ones who have all their attention grabbed by the efforts to see themselves over everyone else’s heads, and they are unkind to whoever gets in their way. It is not your fault- let it go. And then, there are those who come into the bathroom with approachable hearts. They look up and see you in the mirror and are willing to say hi. You will find some of these, and more as you get older and they do too- People grow up, and the more they grow, the more they can see past the end of their own problems enough to be kind. It’s hard work- but no one wants to feel alone, so we try to see over the wall. Have patience and be kind. It is worth it.