The Fluffmeister; Spring 2006.
Remember when the mostly nice saleswoman in the tile store bellowed, IS YOUR SON AUTISTIC BY ANY CHANCE? and I froze since my son was standing by my side and I didn’t feel comfortable launching into a candid conversation because we don’t talk about all that in front of him? A lovely commenter wondered if maybe not discussing Fluffy’s autism in front of him may be sending him the wrong message, ie, that we think his autism is something to keep secret, that it is not okay. I wrote this in response:
to be clear, we do talk about autism in front of fluffy all the time. it’s a big subject with us so he hears it a lot. i have an autism awareness bumper sticker, pin, and books all over the house related to autism by autistic people and NTs. there are some conversations about autism that include disturbing things (like parents killing their kids which we certainly wouldn’t say in front of him!) or confusing or very complicated things that i wouldn’t say in front of fluffy since it’s not age appropriate. most of our talk about fluffy’s autism is centered around remediation through our RDI program, again, not appropriate for him since it breaks down lifestyle activities and games into the stages and objectives we are spotlighting and that would be just weird!
the conversation we need to have with fluffy is about HIS autism. i am not worried about what he’ll think of this since dave and i have no shame about his diagnosis and i think he’ll feel that, feel our love and acceptance. plus, we’ve had LOTS of conversation with him about what autism is, how everyone is different, how everyone learns at different paces, how everyone has things they are good at and things that are challenging. it hasn’t been time for us to tell him about his aspergers yet. there hasn’t been a reason to–up until recently. now it feels like the right time. once we have that talk, we will most likely continue to handle discussions of autism the same way, unless of course, he asks about it and then we’ll openly talk to him about any of his questions or concerns or thoughts. knowing fluffy there will be LOTS of questions and thoughts expressed! then we don’t have to worry about what anyone says in front of him. that was my concern. i didn’t want discussions about HIS autism going on in front of him until we told him about his aspergers. i didn’t want him to hear it that way first. What, mom? What do I have? What are you talking about?
Well, we had the conversation. It was a very short, very simple affair. Fluffy and I wore pjs. Dave wore his cartooning uniform: baggy jeans and a short sleeved pocket t. It went something like this:
Me: You know how we say that everyone is both the same and different? That everyone has feelings and hearts and spirits and dreams? But that some people are lightening fast and some people can’t even use their legs; some people are tall tall tall and some people are small–
Fluffy: Yeah, like that man we saw who has very short legs but a regular rest of his body.
Me: Yes. Like him. And some people can’t see and some people can hear almost like a super hero. Well, there are some people who have a special kind of brain that works in a special way and sees and understands the world in a certain way. You have that kind of brain and it has a name. It’s called Aspergers. Have you ever heard that word before? Aspergers?
Me: Well, there are a lot of people who have that special kind of brain. Kids and grownups.
Fluffy: Will I always have that? Even when I grow up?
Me: You’ll always have that special kind of brain but the brain keeps growing and learning so some of the things you like to do will be things you’ll learn more about and some of the things that are hard or confusing will become easier.
And then he and Dave took Beegu the Goat Dog on the morning walk to the beach where blobs of brown cotton balls and brown bread chunks were deposited in the sand. Wow. That took 5 days. Is this normal? I mean, for those dogs who typically eat glass and then cotton balls and then loaves of bread on Thanksgiving eve?
Fluffy took it in stride. I know there will be more conversations and lots of questions and that is good. I look forward to where ever this leads us. That brain. That beautiful brain. I tell you, I have so much respect for that boy’s brain and heart and spirit and every carbon containing atom that is holding the whole thing together.