Here’s a little background info for you…
If I’m being honest, I was a weird kid.
I mean, I was completely different, absolutely the opposite of anything normal…
I was always too loud…
My clothes were bright colors and mismatched…
I didn’t have any clue what to do with my wild, not-straight-but-not-curly hair…
I sang off-key and couldn’t dance…
I had no interest in make-up or boys or dating…
My hands sweat all the time.
What I’m saying is, I’ve had people stare at
And it’s never really bothered me.
I didn’t care what people thought. If they thought I was weird, they were right.
I liked to quote the Mad Hatter, All the best people are.
Since I’ve had a kid with Autism, I get even more stares, funny looks, awkward glances, and surprising conversations.
People don’t know what to do.
And I can’t really blame them.
✔️My kid moves his body in strange ways.
✔️He makes many loud and interesting sounds and very few words.
✔️He uses sign language and has a service dog.
✔️He carries things with him, like those clips that keep flip-flops together and Lego man heads…
✔️His hair is often messy.
✔️He rarely wears underwear and he’s particular about how his clothes feel.
✔️He’s completely different, absolutely the opposite of anything normal.
Then, this happens…
Last Summer, I was sitting with my husband and our youth group in a large football stadium.
We were there for a conference and were waiting for the next session to begin.
My son was playing in the row and on the aisle steps (that’s one thing you learn with Autism, you sit on the end because you never know when you’ll need to exit quickly!).
He was rocking, making his noises, laughing hysterically.
He does this to help his body regulate itself.
People with neurotypical brains, like me, don’t have to do that; our brains do it for us. However, my son, because of Autism, works hard to keep his senses in check.
So…he was playing. He was happy, laughing, counting. I was looking at Facebook on my phone, and the people with us were all talking and doing whatever.
Then this woman came up behind me and practically yelled,
Does he have a fidget spinner?
I was slightly confused…
Was she talking to me?
Who was she talking about?
Why had everyone been asking me about fidget spinners lately??
Was that really what she said?
*I’ll add that I also don’t hear well if I cannot see your mouth and she came up behind me.
She nodded toward my son…
Does he have a fidget spinner?
Why was this stranger asking me about my kids’ toys?
She went on to say…Oh, I just know they really help with bad behavior. If he had one, he would sit down and be quiet.
I was still slightly bewildered.
Did this woman think a fidget spinner can cure my son’s Autism?
Did she even know he has Autism?
Had she been watching me?
Was she thinking that we weren’t handling ourselves properly?
What was she trying to say?
*I’m also not super good at social cues. Or when people don’t say what they actually mean.
I guess I hesitated a little too long because she interrupted my thoughts…
Well, I just thought I’d let you know they have them for sale. Figured you’d want to help him.
Then she walked off.
Let me reiterate to you, dear readers, my son was happy.
He was playing.
He had been having a good
He wasn’t misbehaving. He was happy.
I was shocked.
This wasn’t the first time even that month that someone had offered me a fidget spinner to “help” my perfectly happy, but totally weird son.
The cashier at JCPenney and a well-meaning teacher had done the same thing the week before.
Do these people really think fidget spinners can cure Autistic behaviors?
I doubt it.
But most people don’t know what to say or do.
And honestly, I don’t either…
I want to advocate for my son.
I want you to see him and know him and see his potential.
I want you to see how far he’s come and how brilliant he is.
But at the same, I don’t want to constantly introduce my son with the addendum, He has Autism.
I don’t want him to get the mindset that Autism is all he is. Even though it is so much of who he is, he’s a million other things too.
And I certainly don’t want him to ever think his Autism makes him bad.
That’s where the staring and inappropriate conversations become a problem.
They send the message that his kind of weird is bad.
Now, I know that most people aren’t trying to be rude…
I don’t even think the woman in my story was trying to be rude.
…She might’ve thought I was being rude.
…You might think I was being rude.
I know it’s awkward to ask, Does he have Autism?
And, I get it, it’s hard not to look at his behaviors.
But there must be a better way.
✔️A smile is always friendly.
✔️Saying hello is a nice way to start a conversation.
✔️Asking polite questions shows us you care.
Okay, so I don’t have all the answers, but I want you to know that my son has Autism and it’s okay…
It makes him different, yes.
But all the best people are.
Have thoughts or questions to share? I’m happy to talk. Scroll on down to the comments section and I’ll see you there. 🙂
First time here?