When Strangers Meet via Autism
A Mother’s Day story.
My husband and son took me out for brunch in Pasadena.
We were seated in a booth. After we ordered, I noticed two women and an older boy being ushered to the table behind my husband and son by a waitress.
I faced them while my husband and son sat across from me.
The boy was closest to us, and there was something about his body language and behavior that stuck in my head. “Hmmm, some of that looks familiar.”
What was it?
Maybe it’s the exposure that I’ve had over the years or maybe it was because I was watching him while talking with my husband and son.
Or, maybe I could just tell. I know what autism looks like and, by now, I can make an educated guess.
The boy has some form of autism.
We went about our business for a few minutes.
Then, I noticed the family get up and move three tables away from us.
I said quietly to myself, “I hope it wasn’t anything we did.”
I reviewed the last few minutes and came up with nothing that we might have done or said that had made them move away from us.
However, the move had bothered me for some reason. “They didn’t have to move away from us,” I thought.
Made my move
When it comes to autism, I find it hard to sit on the sidelines. I wanted to say something.
And, if anything, I wanted to wish the two women a sincere Happy Mother’s Day.
I excused myself and went over to them.
At their table
I leaned down and quietly said, “Hi. My name is Kim. We’re sitting right there. I hope you didn’t move because of anything we did.”
One of the women, the boy’s mother, smiled and said, “Oh, no, it wasn’t you.”
She went on to explain that her son was very hungry and they weren’t getting waited on. A passing waitress suggested that if they moved into her section, she was available to wait on them right away. The move had nothing to do with us.
She went on to explain that she has an older boy with very severe autism. This son was non-verbal, but enjoyed going out. However, she also explained that he has more trouble whenever he gets really hungry.
My guess had been correct.
I completed the circle of communication by letting them know that my son has autism. He has trouble waiting. For him, it’s not about hunger, it’s about having to wait.
A natural connection
From there, it was just a natural connection. I talked with both women for a few minutes. The mom introduced me to the boy. He was non-verbal, but he shook my hand in such a delightful way.
I brought my son over and introduced him. He did his usual, asking a new person if they have any dogs (dogs still being his obsession).
The wrap up
After a few minutes, I thanked them and wished both women a Happy Mother’s Day. (The other woman was a friend with two kids that were not with them.)
I felt so good when I returned to my table, making a connection like that felt awesome. I sometimes liked the autistic shorthand way of talking to people. (Meaning terms like “respite person” or “OT” don’t have to be explained.)
Out in public
A meeting like that makes for a more comfortable public experience for both families. Too often, our kids get looks or comments regarding their “behavior.” It was refreshing to have a positive experience.
You never know what can happen when strangers meet via autism.
Here’s an article that touches on a different kind of stranger experience, where kids with autism have to learn how to behave around strangers while keeping in mind their own safety.
More on Kimberly Kaplan:
To purchase “Two Years Autism Blogs Featured on ModernMom.com”
or “A Parentsʼ Guide to Early Autism Intervention” visit Amazon (print or digital) or Smashwords
LinkedIn: Kimberly Kaplan
You can also find this autism blog on ModernMom.com