When I Told My Co-Worker My Son Has Autism

Today a co-worker visited my office. She hadn’t stopped by in a while. She was looking around and asked if I had new pictures of my son. Then she said, “He must be talking a lot now.”

So here’s where I get stuck. What should I say? If I say no, he doesn’t talk, I likely have to explain my son’s diagnosis. If I say yes and lie, the conversation will keep moving forward, probably to the weather.

Elizabeth Terrazas’s son.
Elizabeth’s son.

The thing is, I don’t mind explaining my son’s diagnosis. I actually love to talk about my son. I feel my job is to promote awareness and, hopefully, create a world of acceptance for him.

However, I realize not everyone may want to learn about autism. I understand not everyone may be comfortable when it comes to autism. So I always fight with myself when I’m in this kind of situation. Should I say something? Or should I dismiss it and move on?

I’m in these kinds of situations all the time. People tell me, “He must be so excited for Christmas!” or “He most love to play with cars!” I don’t want to make people uncomfortable. But in the end, depending on the situation, I have to make a choice.

Today, I chose to be honest. I chose to let my co-worker know my son doesn’t talk. My son doesn’t play with cars, but he prefers puzzles. My son isn’t fazed by Christmas. My son has autism.

These are the phases I usually see: 1) They’re shocked. Obviously they weren’t expecting this answer. 2) Then they regain their composure. 3) They try to make me feel better and say things like, “He will be fine” or “You will see.” And sometimes they say they know someone who knows someone with autism. During my short two-year experience, I have always received a lot of support.

I’m glad I didn’t lie today. I’m glad I spoke about my son and spread awareness. She kept saying “artistic” instead of “autistic.” She was very sweet. I also know that the time will come when the opposite will happen — when “they” might not want to know.

I read so many other bloggers’ stories about their experiences with people’s lack of empathy and understanding. Until then, please know that if I do open up to you, it’s me putting my heart out there when I say, “My son has autism.” Please be kind.

The Mighty is asking the following: What’s one thing people might not know about your experience with disability, disease or mental illness, and what would you say to teach them? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio. Check out our Submit a Story page for more about our submission guidelines.

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