Dear Friend Whom My Autistic Child Just Rebuffed
I know. I saw. You, friendly person that you are, walked up to my autistic child in public and tried to say hello. And he got really, really upset with you. I saw your concern. Felt your embarrassment. Knew you never meant to upset him.
When I see you, you ask about him. When you’ve met him before, you always make a point of speaking directly to him – even when it seems he’s not paying attention. You’ve even had really positive interactions with him in the past. You did everything right. You didn’t go rushing up or speak too loud to him. You didn’t put your hands on him without being welcomed to do so by him. You follow me on Facebook, read about the cute things he does, and celebrate his successes. You’re a good friend and a great cheerleader. I appreciate you.
And because of that, I don’t want your apology for “upsetting” him. That’s because you didn’t. It’s likely several things did, but it wasn’t you. He was just overwhelmed a bit by the world – new sounds, sights, and experiences. He was busy trying to process all of those when you happened to innocently walk up and try to interact. For whatever reason, that’s when his pot boiled over.
He wasn’t judging you, disliking you, or even declaring how he feels about you in the future. He was simply over capacity and expressed it the only way he knows how to – with a big fat “no more right now.” Only he doesn’t yet have those words. He isn’t able to convey exactly what was too much. He meant to say, “I have had enough.” But it wasn’t you. It just seemed like it. And I could tell by your red face that it felt like it too.
So, I’m begging you. Please don’t slink away and give up on getting to know him. Please don’t feel that he just doesn’t like you. Please don’t feel like you did anything wrong. He may have been overwhelmed emotionally and sensory-wise, but his mind is quick. He knows the difference between someone who is good to him and someone who is not. If you continue to gently engage with him when you see him, he’ll learn that you’re not to be feared –and you’ll learn there is nothing to fear from reaching out to him. Before you know it, you’ll have a little buddy who expands your world – just as you will expand his.
I want you to know that your efforts to engage with my child are beautiful to me. Too many people are afraid to try – afraid to “upset” him. Afraid to simply ask what’s the best way to get to know him. But you? You put yourself out there and sent a message to our family, to him, and everyone in the immediate area – that he is worth knowing. Not everyone knows that. But you do.
And that’s why I want so very badly for him to get to know you. Because clearly you are worth knowing too.
This post originally appeared on Flappiness Is...