Navigating Our New Social Role

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Last year I wrote a post about “safe conversations” with casual acquaintances and strangers. I was finding that almost any general small talk led to questions about my daughter. “Oh, she must be excited about summer break coming up.” Or, “That’s such a fun age. What does she want for Christmas?” I think it’s great to share autism awareness, but sometimes it’s easier to lie. I don’t need to explain this to everyone, do I? Sometimes I just want to be on my way as quickly as possible.

Last week I was with Teghan at the grocery store when a man approached her with a magic trick. She wasn’t responding, and I could tell he felt awkward. I told him she would still enjoy it, she just didn’t know how to communicate. It was uncomfortable. He obviously regretted the effort. I get it, but it’s not fair to Teghan. She deserves a magic trick as much as the next kid; her inability to acknowledge it appropriately shouldn’t matter. But it does.

In my post last year I made the point that the more I talked about her autism, the more people I found who understood. That’s the good news. But the other response remains, and there is a similar uneasiness with those who already know us. For many people it is too personal to talk about who our child is. What else can I do? We’re talking about kids and she’s the only one I have. Continue reading