1 in 50

My hackles raise.

I smiled when I first saw the boy talking to himself as he entered the youth services area of the library. I wasn’t mocking him but thinking, I wonder how often adults caught me conversing with myself at that age?

Self-recognition and bemusement quickly give way to territorial instinct as he approaches. Judging this book by his cover, I assume he is too old to play with the foam blocks, over-sized wooden puzzles and plush story book characters stored in the children’s nook.

Philip has his back to the young man, completely absorbed in his play. He lines up three magnetic cars and puts a plastic chicken on top. He pushes his assembly across the table, replaces the chicken with a goat and repeats the process.

concert 004

I am concerned that the too-old-for-this-area boy will disrupt Philip’s reverie. I flash back to summer at the park. Big kids invaded the tot lot, barging into a space they had outgrown, getting in the way of the kids who are supposed to be here, behaving rudely to the wee ones who need this enclosed, safe space to play in.

Here at the library, I worry that this boy carrying a handful of DVDs will behave like the punk kids at the park. He leans his too-tall-for-this-section frame over the case of board books. I eye him from one of the armchairs as he browses, picks one up, makes an appreciative sound and then returns it to the bin.

The boy leaves the books and sits in the chair beside me. I see now that he is holding a copy of Finding Nemo. I notice that the hood is still up on the black winter coat he is wearing. As he sits next to me, he begins rocking. And vocalizing.

I relax.

Instead of seeing myself in this boy, I recognize my son. I find the familiar sounds comforting. Mannerisms that I once considered odd or found unnerving now make sense to me. I am no longer wary of the boy, but feel my protectiveness extend to him.

I sit back in my chair and then remain still. I am now the interloper. I cease my running commentary on Philip’s play (“Where is the chicken going? You put the goat on the blue car. Is he going for a ride?”) Despite my silence, the other boy covers his ears. He sits like this for a moment, then moves off.

Based on his behavior, I jump to another conclusion about the young man. The recent announcement by the CDC that autism has a prevalence of one in fifty children is on my mind. In 2012 when they announced an increased prevalence of 1 in 88 compared to 1 in 110 two years earlier, I had joined in the laments.

Over the last year, however, my perspective, like the statistics, changed. I no longer fear this boy I hear making sounds as he walks among the picture books. I accept him, just as I do my son.

25 thoughts on “1 in 50

  1. YES. I have a 12yo son on the Spectrum as well, and I find myself recognizing autism or Asperger’s symptoms in kids in stores and various other places. Things that I would have thought odd before, just “click” and make sense to me. The same way, I find if a child I’m noticing things about has his mom there, and I have my son, she and I usually click immediately when we recognize our kids in each others’.

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  2. I sometimes feel like there are no moms without children who have special needs, as I navigate, and explain, and hold my breath at her behavior and rages, and try to say the right things and say the wrong things and then notice the kids who are more visibly having challenges, and so does she, and it’s all so heartbreakingly overwhelming sometimes.

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    1. It turns out that, after writing a thoughtful reply, if you don’t hit “post comment” it gets lost.
      I’m not sure how helpful or comforting my lost reply was anyway. All I can say is that, while we aren’t sharing the exact same experience, I do understand.

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      1. Thanks for sharing the article. Another blogger I follow wrote about using a similar program at a different airport. Yet another wrote about a great experience with Jet Blue called “silent boarding.” Hopefully other businesses will want to follow suit.

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  3. You have a lot of courage to write as you do. That’s what I love about your pieces. You really tell us about those parts of yourself that are changing and being exposed because of your son and your experiences of mothering him. A well deserved editor’s pick. Bravo.

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    1. Thank you.
      I’ve admired your writing ever since I found Yeah Write, and I’ve learned a lot from reading your posts, the posts of others and the editor feedback.
      I’ve been inspired to expose more truth, even when it’s not flattering.

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