“People are staring at him because they think he is weird.”
My seven-year-old daughter has always loved and accepted her big brother, who is nine years old and autistic, exactly for who he is: a fun, loving, and unique human who just happens to move through this world a little differently than most.
We had the kind of evening where her brother garnered himself a lot of attention from onlookers. There’s something about a new place, increased demands, sensory overload, and feeling misunderstood that will cause his “indoor voice” to disappear real fast, and dysregulation to set in.
No one get’s to choose where and when this will happen, whether it be on aisle seven at the grocery store or a crowded lobby at sister’s dance class studio.
“They don’t think he is weird,” I assured her. “They just haven’t seen a lot of people act or speak the way he does before, so they are curious.”
Sometimes I think my skin is thick. That I’ve got this advocating and acceptance thing down. And that the stares don’t bother me. But if I am honest, that is not all the way true. I remind myself that the stares do not bother him one bit, and that is what matters.
And sometimes, conversations with a sweet seven-year-old sting a little, deep in my mama heart. The words and feelings echo and linger. Like the time she asked if her brother would have autism forever, or if he loved her.
And sometimes the stares are just a simple and exhausting reminder that we have so much work to do, to increase autism awareness and acceptance in this world. To make it easier for our son, and so many others, to navigate their way through it and be met with grace and patience along the way.
“It’s because he has autism, but no one knows what autism is. That’s why they think he’s weird,” she said.
“That’s why we teach them about autism, sweetie. You can help me teach them.”