Whenever you hear the word “Autism,” there are probably multiple people that come to your mind! But, like I’ve heard time and time again and have known to be true, one person with Autism is one person with Autism. No two are exactly alike. One kiddo may struggle in sensory areas more than another who struggles with behaviors, or visa versa. There are multiple things, but because Autism is a spectrum, every single person who is autistic is different, kind of like a thumb print!
But, even though all autistics are different and unique, it is still under the same umbrella, which means two people with Autism can usually relate in at least one area, but usually there are multiple. This also means that parents of children with Autism can usually relate in multiple ways, kind of like we’re our own group. We just get it. Your kiddo has trouble sleeping? Mine too! Your child will only eat 7 different foods? Mine too! A trampoline is the best gift on earth for your jumpy kiddo? Mine too!
I can relate with other parents with autistic kiddos, but specifically other moms, and oh, how I wish I could have wrapped my arms around one today.
As I walked into my daughter’s therapy center, I could hear lots of kiddos in the back- which is very normal, but they were extra loud today. I could even hear Opal’s sweet little “Weeeee!”
Lucy, my youngest daughter, and I waited in the waiting room for quite some time because Opal was being changed and I learned later that multiple kiddos were in line for the bathroom. I’m not saying this to complain that it took longer than normal, but to say I’m so glad it did!
As we were waiting, a mom walked in the door, and three therapists walked out with her son. He was probably around 8 or 9, but I’m not quite sure. If you’re a mom of an autistic kiddo, you know what I mean when I say that I knew he was about to have a meltdown. His body language, his tone, and his facial expressions were all heading in that direction- a full blown meltdown.
I was nervous because in those situations I’m just so awkward. What do I do? But then the meltdown started. Lucy and I were standing in a corner trying to be as “unjudgemental” looking as possible and staying out of the way so they could help him and we weren’t a distraction. He ran in multiple different directions, not listening to any of the cues or calm and collected commands from his therapists or mother. He was loud, fast, frantic and very anxious. I didn’t know how to help.
The mother, with a heavy and strained facial expression picked him up- remember he’s probably 8 or 9- and did all she could to drag/carry him out the two doors until they got to their car.
I calmly looked at Lucy, who looked a little scared, and said, “That happens to sissy sometimes too, huh?”
My heart breaks for that mother. When I’ve been in her shoes, the stares, the “pretend to ignore them” looks, and almost looking like not knowing how to handle it, because let’s face it, do any of us Mommas always know how to handle meltdowns? I can easily say in my case, no.
Opal rarely has meltdowns. She struggles with many other things, but meltdowns aren’t in her normal, but they happen. Her biggest meltdown ever was when we were putting her to bed one night. She screamed and cried and jumped and flung herself into her bed. It was sad and scary, but put yourself in their shoes for a minute.
Maybe something is too loud, or a sound is playing over and over again but your parents can’t hear it, or the floor is ice cold, or the tag in your shirt itches so much and you can’t reach it, or the toothpaste is still in your mouth because you couldn’t rinse, or two parents tried to put you to bed instead of one, or momma did and you wanted daddy. Any of these scenarios could be happening, but you cannot, almost like your mouth will not let you, tell anyone what’s wrong. You can’t. I’d have a meltdown too.
And most people with Autism do have meltdowns sometimes, and some don’t. But I understand seeing your child obviously struggling and not being able to help because you don’t know what’s wrong. The momma I saw today, I wish I could hug her and not let go. I wish I could tell her that not one person in that room was judging her. I wish I could tell her that tomorrow’s a new day. There’s no telling how she felt once she was in her car. Maybe it didn’t phase her or bother her at all, but maybe it tore her apart driving to another therapy or driving home. I’ll never know.
But Momma, I see you, I feel you, and I hear you, even though you didn’t call for help. Even though you never looked at me. I understand. That moment reminded me today that what Opal goes through, what I go through, neither of us are alone, and there ARE other people who understand. I pray for you tonight, Momma. I pray that you and your kiddo sleep peacefully and that tomorrow is a brand new day full of wins and victories and lessons all along the way.
I see you, Momma. And I haven’t stopped thinking about you since. I hope that if Opal and I are ever in a similar situation one day, that there’s another momma watching, knowing, seeing, hearing, feeling, and understanding, all while whispering a prayer under her breath.