When Strangers Meet Via Autism

Here’s another story about a recent autism experience.

This one happened on Mother’s Day.

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 was facing them.

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.”

Maybe it’s the exposure that I’ve had over the years. Maybe it was because I was watching him a bit 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.

That boy has 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 immediately said to myself, “I hope it wasn’t anything we did.”

By thinking like that, I had panicked a bit. 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. But, still, it bothered me for some reason. “They didn’t have to move away from us,” I thought.

Well, when it comes to autism, I find it hard to sit on the sidelines. I just wanted to say something. And, if anything, with the two women a sincere Happy Mother’s Day.

I excused myself and went over to them.

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 woman, 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.

She went on to explain that she has an older boy with very severe autism, and that this son was non-verbal and enjoyed going out. However, she also explained that he has more trouble whenever he was really hungry.

By this time, I knew.

I injected with the information that my son has autism, and he also has trouble waiting at times.

From there, of course, it was just a natural connection for me. I talked with both women for a few minutes. I met 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!

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 no with them.)

I felt so good when I returned to my table. I enjoy making these kind of connections. I love being able to speak in my autistic shorthand. Terms like “respite person” or “OT” don’t have to be explained.

A meet like that makes for a more comfortable experience in public for both families. Too often, our kids get looks or comments regarding their “behavior.”

It was nice for a change. And, hopefully, it happens more often!

More on Kimberly Kaplan:
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