I’ve been asked a few times why I don’t blog about the challenges of having an autistic child. The answer is simple: I’m not qualified to blog about it. In the realm of autism, we really lucked out.
A few days ago I was talking to a woman who coached Faerie Child’s basketball team a couple of years ago, along with her husband. I don’t remember why, but Faerie Child’s autism was relevant to our conversation. The other mom looked taken aback. She said: “Your daughter is autistic? I would never have known that.”(I had told her husband at the beginning of the season, but apparently he never told her. Because… men.) And I said, “Really?! Her skipping down the court and having animated conversations with herself didn’t clue you in?”
But mostly, Faerie Child at 13 is pretty typical, from what I’ve gathered about other teenage girls’ behavior from my friends. Her earbuds seem permanently attached to her cranium. She hides in her room a lot. I have to nag her to get her homework done. I have to insist she take a shower sometimes. We endure blow-ups and meltdowns from her that are so random and strange, I can only attribute them to hormones and adolescence. All common, run-of-the-mill stuff, according to my girlfriends.
Faerie Child is mainstreamed in a public charter school, although she has an IEP. She plays basketball in a regular league. She can follow directions. She helps out around the house. In the wide view of things, The King and I have it pretty damn easy.
Faerie Child’s autism is definitely an issue on a day-to-day basis, though. Feeding her is a fucking NIGHTMARE. (I cannot begin to explain why feeding autistic kids can be challenging. It’s not stubbornness; there are genuine issues for them eating food they find repulsive. But I can’t explain it cogently, making my point once again that I’m really not qualified to talk about this.)
To complicate things, she inherited my touchy blood sugar. When dealing with this issue, and trying to cajole her into eating something, anything, out in public, I’ve heard more than one snarky comment that about how I’m spoiling her and “she won’t starve.” This is incorrect. She will starve. If there is no food that she finds acceptable, she simply won’t eat — or she’ll throw it up… and then the low blood sugar issue rears its ugly head, and then we have a full-blown DEFCON 1 meltdown.
SIDENOTE: At a kid’s birthday party once, as I was trying to get something halfway decent into Faerie Child’s mouth, a bitchy grandmother made that snarky “she won’t starve” comment as an aside to someone else. I pointedly looked at her — startling her, because she thought I couldn’t hear her — and then said VERY loudly, “Tell you what? When she goes into low-blood-sugar meltdown, and is a sobbing, screaming mess, I’ll send her to your house, and you can deal with it. How’s THAT sound?” She got embarrassed and then shut the fuck up. Really, though, people should know by now not to fuck with me. Do I seem like the kind of person who would let someone get away with that shit?! IDIOTS.
We’ve learned some coping mechanisms. We always make her eat before we go to a party. Before trying a new restaurant, we check and make sure it offers at least ONE fall-back item. I pack her lunch with stuff I know she will eat, which is not the healthiest shit, I have to tell you.
It’s not just the food. She has a very limited tolerance for other humans, noises, smells and too much stimulation. To explain this in two of my favorite Faerie Child quotes: “I don’t get the point of parties,” and “I just like to be alone.” So to keep her from getting overwhelmed, we do not overschedule her. If she says she does not want to do something, we listen. We do not push her to spend time with friends. We joined a gym that has a family pool, because water soothes her.
Her autism definitely affects our family. Our younger daughter is as social as Faerie Child is un-social, so her sister ignoring her and refusing to play with her is hard on our little 9-year-old Diva. “Eating dinner as a family” is a joke, because Faerie Child snarfs her food (when she’ll eat it) and asks to be excused after about 90 seconds. (“Family Dinners” is a whole different blog topic. Oy.) If we’re out somewhere, and Faerie Child says she’s ready to go home, we get a move on. The King and I even vet potential employers to make sure they understand we may need to drop everything and go pick up our kid.
There are probably dozens of other quirks or behaviors of Faerie Child’s that are due to her autism, but that we just attribute to her being her. There may be dozens of other little ways that her autism has shaped our family that I’m not even aware of. But on the whole, she’s a pretty easy kid. We haven’t faced the challenges other parents have faced with their autistic kids. That’s why I’m not qualified to be an “autistic mom blogger.”
Of course, she’s just hitting 13, so god only KNOWS what the next few years will bring. Thankfully, there are loads of competent moms blogging about getting through autism. So I’ll leave that to the experts and stick to what I do best: littering the internet with F-bombs and embarrassing my children as much as humanly possible