It’s not easy for a 10 year old to explain to her friends about autism. My daughter has a bowling league she participates in on Saturdays. I take her and my son to it, and the lanes are filled with the kids in the league. I go early, find a table close to where my daughter will be, and that’s where my son and I sit and watch. I have to buy popcorn for my son, that way he will sit and watch. My son loves to wander around the whole place.
Towards the end of play, my daughter and two of her friends were sitting with us. They would bowl their turn, then come back and sit at the table. They are your typical kids, acting silly and teasing each other. Then it happened. One of the kids asked about her brother. I held my breath. Should I speak up, or should I sit back and let my daughter handle it? Before I could make up my mind, my daughter states that he is autistic. The other two kids kinda shrug and say ok. Then my daughter says he doesn’t talk. One wanted to know how he communicated. The other was curious about the sounds he makes.
I could feel the tension rising as the questions kept coming. I was worried about my son, how he was feeling about them talking about him. He was standing next to me at this time. I looked for any signs that this bothered him, and didn’t see any. At one point my daughter added that her brother has a hard time hearing. This is because his “ear bone is broke.” I see I have a little more explaining to do with that. But I left it for another time.
Just when I couldn’t take anymore, the conversation changed. The kids had the information they wanted, and were now ready for a new topic. I felt like I was hit with a bus, but my son wasn’t phased. The kids wanted to know about him, and they seemed to be accepting. It was like my son and I were on the sidelines, watching and listening. We were there, but not a part of the conversation.
I think it’s time to come up with a better way to explain autism to my daughter. She seemed to have a hard time explaining it, and that’s my fault. I have always told her it means that he is a little different. His brain processes things differently. I’ve always felt that she was too young for a full explanation. I see now that I have been doing her a disservice. She needs more information. This is her brother, she loves and accepts him for who he is. She doesn’t care about autism, because that’s not who her brother is. It’s just a reason why he is the way he is. I’ve spent all these years focused on how autism affects my son. Now I need to take some time and explain it to my daughter.