Yesterday I was at a meeting. There was a person attending that I did not know. He was new to our congregation, but someone that our pastor has known for many years. He is young, unmarried, and has no children (I think this is important later.) I instantly liked him. He fit in very well with our group and I thought what an asset to our church.
I found out that he had worked as a teacher’s assistant with autistic children. Of course my immediate thought was, “WONDERFUL!” Our pastor asked what is autism. (Remember I lead a parent support group at my church for parents of children on the autism spectrum and ADHD. I had no idea he didn’t know specifics.) I was going to go into my explanation, but my new friend did it for me.
His answer, “They are socially retarded.”
My mouth dropped open. My day changed. My brain couldn’t wrap itself around this at all. Maybe I am just politically correct or naive.
My friend Beth quickly spoke up that my son has autism and that maybe that isn’t the best way to explain it. I believe he apologized. I know he said that was how a teacher explained it to him (remember I said he is young, very young.) I believe at this point the feel of the meeting changed, but maybe just for me.
I have to be honest I don’t know what I said. I know my brain seemed to go fuzzy for the rest of the meeting. Then I find myself apologizing to him for getting worked up about this after the meeting.
It took me three years to be able to say that my son has autism. I can’t accept that definition. It is way more complex than that. I hate those words.
My son is brilliant, sweet, kind, loving, and hilarious. I also know that he is not a text book case of autism. He has baffled all the doctors both in Iowa City and Des Moines. They say over and over that he is a contradiction.
I can’t process this. It’s haunting me. I am going to have to do some serious praying about this.