The Episode Where Caillou Gets Facial Hair
My son started high school last week.
He didn’t look out of place as we proceeded down the hallway. He walked confidently, and I noticed that he towered over many of the students, but I could tell he was nervous and so was I.
It seemed like only yesterday he was excited to show me his favorite Teletubby or Pixar video, and I couldn’t get him to go to sleep without his stuffed Piglet toy.
Wait….that literally was yesterday.
My son is autistic. He’s not the weird, math professor kind, but the more of the little rain man variety minus the card-counting capacity. A lot of his abilities are similar to a 4 or 5 year old, but he has more of a linebacker-build these days so his behavior is confusing to a lot people – including me!
I do my best to keep this conflict in mind when he does something particularly annoying. Would I be this upset if a 5 year old did that? Usually not, but other people don’t see him that way either so I still need teach him how to maneuver himself through life without terrifying young children. Basically life is not fair, and I have discovered that the social expectations for him are no different than for other kids his age.
For example, if a 4 year old has a tantrum at the movie theatre and starts screaming and throwing punches – people might notice, make small judgments, and then move on. If my son has a similar tantrum he might knock someone out cold, and the police could be called in. It is a different experience as a parent, and a very different community response. Society doesn’t have a lot of patience for people who take more than the allotted time to sort themselves out. I can understand it, but it does create challenges for my son and our family.
Another unique experience we’ve had lately is watching our preschooler go through puberty.
Yes, it is as weird as it sounds.
Usually a 4 year old boy isn’t all that interested in females breasts – they don’t leer anyway, nor do they have to wear deodorant, or shave. Obviously sex education materials and discussions have to be altered as well – it reads more like a picture story book. You won’t find this book in the children’s section of your local library, but you are welcome to borrow my copy if you need it.
My favorite story is: Where Can I Be Naked?
Spoiler: It is not ok to be naked outside, or at the grocery store.
This is not a pleasant job for a parent, but it is important for my own child’s safety as well as for others. What you need to know is that special needs children are considerably more likely to be sexually abused than their neurotypical peers.
We have been fortunate to enjoy the help of many supportive family members, friends, teachers, and other workers over the years. Many of these people are more experienced with this whole thing than we are, and we rely on their expertise daily.
Don’t get me wrong – we had disappointments that way too, but lucky for us we’ve had more positive than negative experiences, and really what else can you hope for?
I have learned to welcome all support offered – even the awkward and unhelpful kind. You see a lot of assistance extended is well-meaning, but it is like accepting clothing donations. It is best if you take it with a smile, and with the understanding that you will only find one or two good items per bag.
When I can … I try to get ahead of the game and ask for specific help since I know from experience that always works best. On that note – if you come across any Thomas the Tank Engine theme Razors – please let me know!