I'm happy to introduce our new column Special Needs Living from CafeMom aurorabunny.
aurorabunny's 3-year old son Brody was diagnosed with classic autism at one year, falling on the severe side of the spectrum in terms of development. At present, Brody is still mostly nonverbal, using a few words, sign language, and PECS (Picture Exchange Communication System) to communicate.
Each week, aurorabunny will be talking about the everyday struggles and triumphs of raising a child with special needs and an invisible disability.
Announcing Autism by aurorabunny
Although I differ from some moms in the sense that I don't mind using the word "autistic" when talking about my son Brody, I never wanted to be the parent who trails behind him, announcing the fact that he has autism to anyone and everyone. But somehow lately, with the combination of him being a little bit older and also being introduced to more social situations, I seem to find myself doing just that. I think I'm finally starting to realize how hard it can be to know what to do or say to others when your child has an "invisible" disability.
Just last week I took Brody in for a doctor's appointment and our normal physician wasn't available, leaving us to make an appointment with a doctor who we had never seen before. After a few minutes of the doctor trying to engage Brody in a conversation (or get him to even look at her), I finally said, "He's autistic, and he's nonverbal." Was that the right thing to do? Maybe in that situation, especially since we were dealing with a doctor who most likely needs to know these things. But is that always the right thing to do?
I feel in a lot of situations that if I don't explain that my son has autism, I run the risk of people thinking that he just has no manners or any number of other assumptions that people probably make. The fact that he doesn't have any language is most likely what makes this so hard for me.
I also sometimes think I should jump on the opportunities to explain autism to other children; my line of thinking being that maybe this will help them to be more tolerant and accepting of Brody and other children who are different. However, I definitely don't want my son to grow up thinking that is name is "Brody has autism."
I'm curious what other moms think...do you explain your child's special needs to others? If your child doesn't have special needs, what would you think of another mom explaining her child's disability to you in a casual situation?