I'm gonna send a flood, gonna drown them out
I am brave, I am bruised
I am who I'm meant to be, this is me
Look out 'cause here I come
And I'm marching on to the beat I drum
I'm not scared to be seen
I make no apologies, this is me"
This is Me from the The Greatest Showman Soundtrack
Kiddo's school wanted him to wear this Autism Awareness fundraiser shirt last week. Everyone was suppose to "Light It Up Blue" and all that jazz. (Don't come for me folks who got a beef with that campaign. It wasn't my idea. I am merely reporting the facts for the context of this little piece, m'kay?)
Did I mention that Kiddo goes to a private school that is strictly for students with autism? So basically they wanted the kids to bring awareness to the fact that they all have autism. Which I guess, in a warm and fuzzy Kumbaya kind of way they could bond over. Or it would serve as a reminder to the staff that are all trained to work with autistic kids that these kids in the school strictly for students with autism have well, autism.
Okay, let's just admit this whole event is kind of strange but whatever. They're doing it. It's April. We're suppose to dial it up a ton with the Autism. Despite how this month often just leaves me befuddled, I dove right in.
I handed him the shirt in the morning and said "Okay bud. All the kids are wearing this today for Autism Awareness" and it struck me once again, does my kid even really understand that he has Autism?
It's no secret in this house. It never has been. We have talked about it quite openly but I still wasn't sure if he even knew what that meant. With his intellectual disability to boot, a serious conversations about neurology would not be as easy as our usual back and forth chats filled with our movie script quotes and tons of inside jokes that only we understand.
I said to him "You have autism. That's what makes you, well, you!"
And I got a reaction that pretty much can be summed up as "Whatever". In my head though I am thinking "Is this a big deal? Should I make it a big deal? Yeah, it is a big deal. If anything, for his safety I need him to be able to say "I have autism" if anyone asks him. He needs to know his identity!"
I said to him "Say it with me. I have autism!" and he repeats it. Kind of quietly. Kind of unsure of the word. I say it again and encourage him to say it again with a big old smile on my face. I want him to know this autism thing, this is a cool thing about him. I want him to own it. He says it louder. Still not as sure. The word, I can tell, still seems different to him. While we might have been using it all around him, he sure hasn't been. This might take some time getting use to a new word to use.
This is where I then think "Does he know what it means to have autism?" More importantly, "Does he even care?" Life with the Kiddo is pretty clear for a lot of things. If he likes something, he LOVES IT! If he doesn't care, let's just say his resting bitch face is pretty stellar. (Yes, he takes after me. How did you know?)
Since we are also firmly into the teenage years and attitude, I'm not sure if he really gets all the parts of it based of the fact that I get the "IDGAF" face about ten times a day as is for all other kinds of conversations ranging from "Did you brush your teeth?" to "Would you like to watch a movie with me?" So I have to factor that into it too. If there was ever a person that was unapologetic with who he is, it's my Kiddo. I love him for that.
Cause this is the autism at my house. This is him. I'm not sure how it goes at yours but this is what we've got. I'm not sure how to fully explain it to him in ways that I know that he knows what it means. He might know now but can't fully communicate it with me that he does or if he even cares. I'm just trying to get the sentence in his head so he knows when to pull it out when he's asked.
This looks like a job for a SOCIAL STORY!!!! (And maybe a showtune. I mean, there's showtune for everything, really.)
Observe the "IDGAF" attitude. Kiddo doesn't really care what your opinion is of him or if you even have one. He's a baller like that.