Tuesday, July 30, 2013

Going to the pool with Autism

I am that mom at the pool,  the one who rarely takes her eyes off her kid, even though he is 11 and can swim. The one who seems extra nervous and calls her son over frequently, trying not to draw too much attention.  What you don't hear is me reminding him to respect personal space, not to be too rough, not to grab or splash if he's been asked not to do so, or to just chill out.  

I am the mom who worries about what the other kids are saying to him, and his reaction- moving around pool side depending on where he is at,  making me look like the "helicopter mom" that can't leave her kid alone. What you may not understand is that my son's "quirks" and misunderstanding of social cues can make  him a target for ridicule. Even good- natured teasing will confuse him, causing him to get upset and could cause a meltdown.

I am the mom that is on high alert, because my son gravitates towards kids much younger than he is. An older child attempting to play with these younger kids draws the attention, and possible incorrect assumptions about his motives. So I am always having to keep an eye out, reminding him frequently to not be too rough, and isn't there some kids closer to his age he would like to play with?   I understand why he prefers the younger kids sometimes, and will gladly tell you to ease any concerns you might have.

I am the mom keeping an eye on not only my son, but the other kids, whose teenage babysitters are listening to their iPods, texting, or just enjoying the sun, with a cursory glance at their young charges from time to time. What you don't know is what sometimes seems like playing or harmless rough-housing is actually an issue that needs to be addressed, and a good majority of the time, it is not my son instigating it, but not moving away from it either.

I am the mom who feels bad telling her 11 year old son that I would love to play with him in the pool, but doesn't he want to hang out with the other kids? He already deals with so much, I don't want to add to any teasing because he is hanging out with me. The kids are old enough now, that I can't play with all of them like I used to. What you don't know is while my son is  11 years old, he has a developmental delay that makes him more like 9 years old, and playing with me is fun and safe.  I still do play with him, of course and hope he won't be made fun of later.

I am the mom who won't hesitate to chastise an adult, whose child my son knows makes mean remarks to him, and to their mom, who not only laughs, but perpetuates the teasing. I do not tolerate adults who know better acting like this. Your child's behavior and the way they treat my son, and others who have differences is a direct result of your immaturity and lack of compassion. It's people like you that make my job of raising and spreading awareness that much harder.

I am the mom who is beyond thrilled  when other kids are including my son in their games, making him a part of the group and just being 11 year old boys playing "Sharks and Minnows" at the pool.  What you don't know is I am probably holding back tears, and quietly celebrating what you take for granted.