The best part about being, not just an autism mom, but a special needs mom in general, is that the best sources of comfort and information tend to be other autism/special needs parents.
Being a special needs parent I have learned that talking about the specialness of my son is something akin to talking about money or mental illness in public. It’s one of those things that SHOULD happen all the time, but it doesn’t. My son is in a daycare with 5 other special needs kids, but I have no idea what the other kid’s diagnoses are, or even who they are for sure out of the 30 or 40 other kids there. And while I get that some families do not want to discuss their child’s personal and private health information, when we do disclose that information to each other I find that as parents, we can provide a wealth of information and support to each other.
This morning a parent made an off-handed comment about the peanut, asking if he was getting ready to start school next fall. She was surprised to hear that he is, in fact, heading to grade 1 next fall and that with his autism, we were able to get him into the diagnostic kindergarten class just across the hall from the daycare both our kids attend, which gives me high hopes that he’ll be ready for the first grade next fall. She was surprised, and I was surprised to learn that her son is also autistic and, at the age of 4, is just a short 2 years behind the peanut in his journey navigating the school system as a child with autism. Well, the look of understanding and relief that passed between us moms opened a floodgate and we pretty much made ourselves late to work talking about each of our experiences. I gave her some tips on steps we had already progressed through in navigating the system, she expressed thankfulness for my openness. We are kindred spirits and even though we’ve been saying good morning and goodnight to each other throughout this current school year, we had no idea that we are on the same path.
How much more could we have helped each other if we had only known? Immeasurably, I have no doubt.
Now, I’m not saying that I’m going to go around talking about my son’s autism to all the other parents, but what I will do going forward is not be afraid to mention his autism when I’m asked how he’s doing in school. Normally I don’t bother mentioning it because, well, I don’t know why. But I don’t want to be afraid to mention it anymore, because the secrecy isn’t helpful to anyone.
Talking to that mother this morning, I feel better and lighter about my experience as an autism mom than I have in weeks. I was able to give her information about the school system and the kinds of classes and staff supports we’ve been able to get the peanut over the years. Supports and options that I have learned about through my many (many!) meetings and consults with dozens of people over the years that she was unaware of.
She seemed thankful. And I know I’m thankful to have a new mom join my own personal army of moms I can rely on, not just for information or support, but for someone to just talk to who understands what I’m going through.
Today was a good day.