|Safety Birdie-- the kid that keeps on amazing me!|
But I'm getting ahead of myself... let me set the stage for you a little. For the last couple of weeks, Birdie has been bouncing around the idea of starting her own blog. So cool, right?! One of my fellow blogger friends, Perry Morgan, suggested several months ago that Birdie might enjoy blogging, but I was hesitant to mention it to her. Then out of the blue, Birdie asked if I would help her make a blog! (Sorry, Perry-- you were so right, dude!) She wants to blog about her fantasy world she calls "The Dimension" and all of the magical creatures that live there. She plans to provide illustrations, as well as an "English to Dimension language dictionary". I think it sounds like a fabulous creative outlet for her. She also very politely pointed out that I could list her blog on my blogroll "so that other people could find her on the internet and enjoy her imagination." Ha-- I love that kid! I assured her that if she made a blog, she would be at the top of my list. :)
So, back to the question that left me feeling unprepared...
Birdie, shouting from upstairs: Hey, Mom-- what's an autism blog?
Me, shouting back: *panic-stricken voice* Uhhhh-- why do you want to know?
Inside my brain, I heard my voice expressing my mental meltdown, as I felt my heart trying to jump out of my chest. Really?! Tonight?! Really?!! I am so not ready for this! Then, the voice in my head got angry. Who the hell told her that anyway?! I could really reach out and touch someone right about now-- if I only knew who to reach for!! I don't think she's READY for this-- I'm certainly not! MOTHER-TRUCKER!!!!!
B, still upstairs: Well, I know that you write an autism blog, and your blog is really cool. I wondered what autism is, so that I could decide if I wanted to write that kind of blog too.
Aw, crap-- this is my fault! I should know by now that she. Hears. Everything. All the time. Guess I'll be kicking my own rear for this one, dammit.
Me: Wellllll, autism iiiiiiisssss... uuummmmm, it's a different way of thinking??? I guess?? It's sometimes considered a disability, but I don't think of all cases in those terms. My blog is mostly about parenting. Yes, parenting. If you plan on writing about The Dimension, yours probably won't really be an autism blog.
I said this all very quickly, like I would explode if I didn't get it all out immediately. It left me feeling like I'd failed the whole conversation-- and maybe even a little dirty, too. Okay, Delirious Mom-- that SUCKED! Get your ass upstairs and try again, why don't ya?!
So up the stairs I went, to interrupt Birdie's bedtime reading and make sure that I hadn't screwed the pooch with my substandard response to her very important question.
Me: So where did you hear that my blog is an autism blog, B?
B: I've heard you say it before, and I have heard other grown ups say it too. Can you tell me again what it is? I know what a blog is. I just don't know the word autism.
Me: Okay. *deep breath* Autism is another name for Autism Spectrum Disorder, or ASD. (Birdie loves all the details she can get.) Autism affects a person's brain, and changes the way they think and interpret the world they live in. People with autism often have difficulty communicating with other people, they have a harder time making friends than their peers, and they don't deal well with intense things, like loud noise, bright light, or physical contact with other people. Some people's symptoms are worse than others, which is why it is a spectrum. It's called a disorder because people with autism aren't sick, they are just different. I don't think they need to be cured of anything, they just need some assistance with their weaknesses.
B: Hey! I think I may have autism! I do, don't I?! It would explain a LOT! I think some of my classmates have it, too. Actually, now that I think about, just about everyone I know has at least a little autism!
I can't even imagine how I looked in that moment. I was so surprised by her response that I laughed, and felt some of the tension slip out of my shoulders.
Me: You're right, Birdie. You do have autism. You have a mild type of autism called Asperger's syndrome. Most adults with this form of autism call themselves "Aspies".
B: Ass-burgers? Really?! I think I'll just start saying I'm an aspie now. Who wants to call themselves a butt sandwich?! Gross! *giggling hysterically*
Me: You're also right that everyone falls somewhere on the spectrum, they just don't all land in the range that is considered as "having autism." Most people are just regular folks, then there are the aspies, and then there are the more severe versions of autism, where speech and motor skills are really impaired. I think that you are the perfect you in the perfect place, just the way you are-- wouldn't you agree?
B: Yeah... I like my imagination, and the way I think seems to work pretty well for me. I do take a long time to make friends, but I'm getting better at that. I can tell.
Me: Do you have any other questions, honey?
B: *hesitantly* Does anyone else in our family have autism?
Me: Your sister does. And even though your dad and I don't have autism, something inside of our DNA probably contributed to you having autism. My brain works a little like yours sometimes, but it's not nearly as cool as your brain. You are able to see things in a way that most of your peers will never get to experience. Your unique point of view will come in really handy as a grown up, I bet!
B: I bet Sissy's boyfriend has autism too!
Me: He does, as do several other students at your school. You are different from most of your peers in that respect, but you are definitely not the only kid with autism.
B: I KNOW, MOM! I just said that. I don't really care either way. Now can you PLEASE let me finish my book?! I have to know how this ends before you make me turn my lights out.
I took that to mean our conversation was over for now.
I would say Birdie handled the news pretty well, wouldn't you? Mama, on the other hand, needed a nightcap after that little talk. I just hope that when Princess is ready to talk, she'll be as accepting of her diagnosis as Birdie was. Personally, I am still reeling with amazement at this whole situation! Part of me worries that this was just a little too easy, but for now-- I'll take too easy with no complaints! It is, after all, the first week of school. There are much better things to complain about right now. :)