Heck we need to laugh. Or at least I do. In fact, I think most autism parents needs to laugh as do autistic people about autism.
I was with my friend from the National charity Unity for Autism today, Kathy Deschenes who, like me, completely volunteers her time to her charity. Kathy has written as of yet, an unpublished book on all the funny stories about herself and her autistic son. Kathy is not only a dynamo in pulling people together, but her charity this year is raising money to provide mentors at York University — something that I am personally thrilled about.
Kathy is exuberant and she has the levity that we all need when it comes to thinking about autism and raising our children. I think her book would be a boon to the existence of us all because fair laughter often takes the stigma away. When we laugh, we come closer together and laughter can dispel fear.
We are talking about how her son Lee, now seventeen, had few words like my son Adam at the age of eight. Lee has been accepted to attend a college for Art and Design but wants to get into another college for computer animation. Kathy is relaying to me over coffee how frustrated we can become as parents, thinking that our children’s distress is caused by one thing (like how I’m worried a marital separation may have effected Adam) and how, when our children can tell us, what we thought was the cause of stress was/is not the culprit at all. Sometimes the media images and messages about autism can get us so down that we forget that there is a bright future and while it may be a little different, it isn’t any less hopeful or humourous than life itself. It is a welcome message as the tendency I have is to blame myself as so many other parents do. So here is the story:
Lee, at the age of 8 1/2, still with very few words was given an option for dinner one evening.
Kathy said, “Lee, what would you like for dinner: macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese?”
Lee replied, “Pizza, pizza, PIZZA!”
“No Lee,” she said, trying to get him back on track, “your choices are macaroni and cheese or grilled cheese.”
“PIZZA!” he replied again.
A battle of wills ensued and Lee was sent to his room. Two minutes later, the doorbell rang. It was pizza delivery.
How on earth did he order a pizza? Kathy thought.How can a non verbal autistic child order a pizza? Industrious Kathy got down to investigating. She called the pizza company.
“We thought it was a little strange,” they told her. “But we called back and it was the correct phone number.” Kathy had not heard the telephone ring. Lee had managed to turn off all the ringers.
So little Lee, now big seventeen-year-old Lee, then with very few words knew some essential scripts for ordering that pizza. “Cash, yes, that will be cash.” His ability to learn scripts coupled with resourcefulness got the job done.
Now that Adam is willful this story makes me relax and I can laugh a little more. Adam is at an age where he is beginning to test me. He will want things I do not want him to have. He will do things that can really tick me off and I have had a tendency to worry too much. Instead, I should consider that he may even end up ordering his own pizza some day soon (or some other online delivery I imagine, since Adam is incredibly adept at figuring out the computer…perhaps I should watch my credit card!).
The moral of this story? Not only is it good to have a belly laugh at some of the antics of our children, but also, maybe both Lee and Adam will order their pizza and get to eat it too.