Thursday, January 13, 2011

It's called AUTISM- Have you heard of it????

OK, breathe Bonnie . . .
I am used to be being stared at for one of three reasons:

1.  I have five children  - not an extremely huge number of kids but definitely at least two more than most families you see in public places.

2.  I have a set of  7 year old quadruplets (that means FOUR)  -sorry but people ask me if they are twins all day long.  More so when they were babies but now they have grown, people have less interest which is kind of good but still occasionally I am nicely interrogated on my unique family and how they came to be.  I am OK with that usually because heck, we are a sight but you learn how to minimize the attention by dressing them differently, putting them in two twin strollers at the mall and walking away from each other.  Also the number one rule for avoiding friendly fire is this:  AVOID ALL EYE CONTACT. Especially when you are in a hurry and you just want to buy some chicken nuggets and milk and get out.  I am pretty southern and try to be polite and smile at everyone so this one is hard for me, but people take it as an invitation to approach you.  Sometimes I don't mind at all.  I like meeting new people and most are genuinely interested and kind.  Some get nosey and start asking questions about fertility and such but still.  I  don't mind.  Unless I am in a hurry so no eye contact.

3.  And the third reason I get stared at is that I am a bombshell, totally hot.  So there you have it.  NO I am kidding!!!  The third reason we get stared at in public is that one of my quads happens to have a moderate case of autism.  Not autism like the popular usage referring to quirky kids who speak very well and maybe flap there hands a bit but AUTISM like still wears diapers at night at 7years old, must have hours of therapy and see multiple specialist each week, can't tell you what's wrong when she is crying wildly at 3 am for the third night in a row, bangs her head and chews her lips till they bleed, rarely speaking kind of autism.  Don't get me wrong - my daughter is AMAZING, and brilliant.  She taught herself to read at 3 years old.  Even my son who is in gifted didn't do that.  I love her to the depths of my soul and she has made me a better person. Truly.  But she does complicate things on a daily basis.  Its like having a perpetual toddler in tow. 

OK so now to my point- 
I am used to be stared at.  Its just human nature, I get that.  Most people notice, register and move on:  I imaging the conversation in their heads going something like this:

"Holy cow!  WTH (or WTF! depending) Uh are all those hers?  She must have a daycare.  I wonder if she is in one of those weird religions who believe in having 20 kids? Wait they all look the same age except for that small wiggly one, they must have some twins in that mix? Why is that one acting strange?  She looks the same age and has the same features. Oh I see must be multiples, must be autism, must be a crazy overworked momma!"

And they would be right for the most part and they would go back to eating their fries or picking out their toilet paper or other exciting activity. 

So today after a total of one month of kids being stuck at home on the LONGEST CHRISTMAS VACATION IN THE HISTORY OF HUMANITY, we decided to go out in public after taking Doodle to speech therapy.  We ventured into an uncrowded Chick fila at 3pm for a very late lunch.  There is ice and snow all over the sidewalk and parking lots (hence the month out of school) so I am navigating with one hand on Doodle, three left on their own and my other hand on the bucking bronco that is my high-spirited two year old.  We'll call him the bull.  Have you ever walked a bull on a leash? No? Well that is best way to describe my little guy. 

Oh I forgot to mention whenever I have to take all five anywhere along, which is exceedingly rare, I stop and say a prayer for our safety and my sanity because it is quite difficult really but doable.  So I made the sign of the Cross and prayed silently before we entered the restaurant. 

I must preface my story with a side note about Doodle: she has an annoying habit of stealing peoples food.  People who unfortunately she doesn't know but happen to have chicken nuggets or fries and therefore she believes are all there to feed her.
So I pray, we enter and all my kids immediately turn left to go straight to the play area.  I let go of her hand for less than two seconds and when I turn the corner behind her a woman grabs my attention.

"Excuse me mam, I need to tell you that your daughter just took my son's chicken nugget and walked away"

Me: "I am so so sorry, would you like me to buy you some more food?"

She was about to keep on and I realized -
She doesn't get it yet, most people figure it out in about two seconds - that my daughter has special needs, that she can't help her odd behavior, that they should just get over it because really ITS JUST A CHICKEN NUGGET! Really this poor woman has her hands full with five small children and doesn't need any grief or judgement from me because she obviously doesn't want her daughter to steal stranger's food, she isn't a bad mom who lets her kids roam fast food joints unsupervised scrounging free food because they are broke and have no morals.  She just didn't catch her fast enough to prevent it and well ITS JUST A CHICKEN NUGGET!

Most people would think that but not this lady, not today.

So I stopped her and looked her in the eye and kindly said  "She has autism.  She does this sometimes.  I am sorry I didn't catch her.  Can I buy you some more food.?  Her lone child, a grown teenage son, caught on quickly and gave her a look and said "Mom it's fine."

She couldn't let it go because, I don't know, maybe I looked like I needed to be taught a lesson or given some unsolicited advice from her vast experience with ONE. GROWN. TYPICAL and POLITE child (wait a minute a typical and polite teenager is an oxymoron but back to the story.)

Her - "She didn't even look me in the eye, she just took it!!" 
 I am thinking LADY - she doesn't look anyone IN THE EYE! That's part of what autism is!! I am her mother and she won't look me in the eye!

She couldn't let it go.  Though she smiled and said "it's OK"  After I explained.  She had to get a jibe in.

As I turned to walk away with the bucking bull still in tow she says, "Maybe you should stay closer to her."  My jaw about dropped.

  Me being southern, instead of saying what I wanted to, instead of thinking of some cool sting on the spot to put her in her place for being ignorant and hurtful and judgemental  and lets just say it STUPID, instead of saying something I would later regret but would be so fulfilling at the moment. I just smiled and said "yea, well it's kind of hard with five."
  What I wanted to say was  "@$#%$^$#%R$#^%$^# to you and the horse you road in on! You ^#^%#$%$%$&^$%!! "

I. Should. Stay. Closer. To. Her.

Now why didn't I think of that?  She's %$^%$ brilliant!

 I want to thank you all for sticking out this long, vent.  I truly see kindness in strangers' hearts on a daily basis.  Understanding, recognition, sometimes empathy and a look that says they have been there, but once in a while someone who has lived under a rock or in a utopia comes along who doesn't know what its like to care for a child with autism or small children at all.  If you ever see a situation such as this unfolding before your eyes don't be afraid to step in and offer your understanding to the parent at hand.  It will serve as a reminder to those who deal with these situations frequently that not everyone is an ignorant git :)

Remember - its not the end of the world - its just a chicken nugget.  It's called Autism.

**If you've been in a similar situation due to having multiples or a child with special needs feel free to share your story in comments or email me. I would love to hear about it.  Then we can stew together!