* We went to my neighbor’s son’s 3rd birthday party a few days ago. Sweet family. Miss Thang is friends with Emma, the oldest daughter. They’re a good match. “Let’s build a bridge of macaroni and cheese to the mooon,” Miss Thang suggests. “The moon is a long way away,” Emma says. “I don’t think we can do that. Plus, we don’t have that much macaroni.” A yin to Miss Thang’s yang. Maddox, their son, is autistic. I’m not sure where he is on the scale, but it is obvious he’s not like other 3 year olds: limited eye contact, communicating in grunts and screams, zero interest in other children. I felt for his mom Carrie as she tried to interest him in his gifts. I saw her eyes light up when he decided to partially unwrap a gift. “He’s never been interested in opening gifts before,” Gary (his dad) whispered as he zoomed in on his son with the video camera. “Did you get that?” Carrie asked, her voice betraying her excitement. “Did you see that?”
I complain about Miss Thang’s endless energy and curiosity. She wears me out. She doesn’t stop talking. She’s into everything and everybody’s business. And then I’m shown how it could be. Grasping for hope. Latching onto any form of neuro-typical behavior with such ferocity. Watching my child become so overwhelmed that he can’t function. Apologizing to others even though we’re doing the best we can. He’s doing the best he can. Comparing my 3 year old’s behavior with yours and being shown again and again that there is something wrong.
As Miss Thang and Emma raced around the yard with the 10 other “normal” children I watched Carrie and Gary involve Maddox to the best of all their abilities. Protecting him from overstimulation caused by kids who just want to play and don’t understand that being in his face freaks him out. Lifting him over and over and over again so that he can slide down the water slide. Guiding adults in ways to best help him. It seems so over-protective at first to a mom like me – and then I am reminded as I watch Maddox turn away from the noise and excitement and wave his hands and grunt in that cadence, there is no other way they can do it. They are doing their best for their son – even though at times it must break their hearts.