AUTISM: NOT ON THE MENU
It had been a long day. Tom and I were on a time crunch. We had been relocated by his company and had 3 days to find a new home. After 8 hours, looking at house after house, we called it a day.
On our way back to the hotel we decided to stop at a restaurant for a quick bite to eat. We were all pretty beat and after eating junk all day, I figured we deserved a real meal. Poor Brody had been stuffed with Cheerios and pretzels throughout the day and it was time to get some veggies into his stomach. As Tom and I gazed over our menus, something odd caught my eye. Brody’s arms were jutting straight out in front of him. I reached over and gently pushed his arms back down. A little knot started forming in my stomach.
Seconds later, Brody’s arms jutted out again. He couldn’t stop. It looked like he was being electrocuted. He had lost control over his limbs. I looked around the restaurant, not sure what to do, what to think. Was anyone looking at us? I tugged on Tom’s sleeve. Tom looked at Brody and then back at me. “What’s he doing?” Tom remarked. I was as perplexed as Tom. Whatever was going on, I knew it was not good.
I held my emotions in check until back in the privacy of our hotel room. Then, the water works were turned on full blast. I couldn’t catch my breath. All my fears I had tucked away were released. Tom looked at me like a deer in headlights.
The restaurant incident was my first acknowledged “oh, oh” moment; the moment I instinctively knew something was different about Brody and “oblivious bliss” was no longer an option. There was something more going on here. I checked my book of excuses and realized I was all out.
So what was going on? What was behind Brody’s odd arm movements, his lack of speech, covering his ears and not turning towards you or acknowledging you when you called his name?
I thought back to a conversation I had with a friend a month before. She was the first person who ever mentioned the word autism to me. My response to her was always, “Oh no, I don’t think so. He doesn’t do what autistic people do (like I really knew). Plus the Early Intervention Program (Brody was enrolled in) would surely have picked up on it. Don’t worry he is just a late talker.” I had an excuse for every concern she had.
I looked at my reflection in the bathroom mirror. It was time to face the music.