Well. I did it. I told Jake he is not alone. He is part of a group of individuals who share similar struggles and gifts, and that being a part of this group means that he is autistic.
He didn’t ask me loads of questions.
He didn’t wonder if this made him special or if it was in his brain. He didn’t ask if I was autistic too or if Aiden was or what it meant.
He didn’t say anything.
He nodded. And kept playing Lego.
I waited. He didn’t mention it at all that night.
He didn’t mention it the next day.
I have to say. It was anti-climatic. I was hoping that he would have questions. My determination to not make a big deal of it stopped me from elaborating on the things that I have wondered. He will wonder things one day, I’m sure.
He didn’t go to school and tell all his classmates. I had kind of worried about that.
It was almost as though it never happened.
Except it did. And the quiet, not a big deal nature of it was good.
The other day at his Tae Kwon Do class Jake had an accident and hurt himself. Before warm-ups. Before class even started. His dad was surprised at the severity of the meltdown that ensued, and class was almost half over before he managed to convince Jake to try again.
This label is important. The teacher didn’t make a big deal out of the screaming 6 year old with his arms wrapped around his fathers’ ankles. Dear dad was totally embarrassed, but he responded calmly, knowing that his kid can be a struggle. That once he is thrown off, it is hard to reset.
They came home, with Jake happy and victorious, and dad burned out and frustrated. Dad and I discussed strategies, positive reinforcements for calming down quickly, and new visuals that could help. We strategized. Jake will learn to strategize.
Then we talked about what the other parents might have thought and how hard it is to know what to say or do when we are out in public and this kind of thing happens. Truthfully, it is happening less all the time. But what is there to say? Do we make excuses, announce his labels for the public, run from the situation and continue the meltdown in private, give up on Tae Kwon Do? I just don’t know. Those moments are hard.
I talked with Jake about it after they came home and tried to explain how dad was feeling. I think Jake understood. He said that if he was the dad and his kid did that he would be very upset. He has an unusual way of speaking when he is being empathetic, and I think he was close to getting what was going on. He is so good, so intrinsically good, I believe that he will get it.
And so, I am proud of myself and my family. We love our autistic Jake. We would do anything for him and his happiness, and we work hard with him so that we can all get through each day. One day at a time. And one of these days we will talk again about being autistic and what it means.