To My Son With Autism, After a Public Moment of Inner Strength

Dearest William,

You usually love being in the restroom — it’s where you can make funny faces in the mirror and swim in the tub before bedtime! But today, we had a different experience.

Today, we stopped at Dunkin Donuts to pick up some bottled water to drink before speech therapy. When we walked into the restroom, I could see the concern on your face. I watched as you turned to face the automatic dryer. Despite your sensory-seeking behavior, you do not appreciate the echoing of hand dryers in public restrooms. Who does, really? You swayed back and forth for a few seconds, rocking on your heels and breathing more heavily than normal, side-eyeing that evil contraption and raising your arms up to cover your ears.

I told you, “We don’t have to go near the dryer, I promise.” And I think you understood.

After you used the restroom you came to me and said, “All done. Wash hands.” So I helped you stand on one side of the sink so you didn’t have to be on the side with the dryer. Your little hands and arms and shoulders shook nervously as I helped you lather up the soap and rinse your small hands.

But you used such self control. You turned around, held out your wet hands, and begged in the tiny voice you try so hard to use, “I want open door.”

I opened the door, and we walked out of that Dunkin Donuts restroom with damp hands into a world where no one would know the incredible success you just achieved. No one would know exactly how extraordinary you are. In those little moments, you let me see the depths of your struggle to cope with sounds that are more intense for you because of autism and sensory processing disorder, as well as your inner strength, and I love and admire you even more.

On your side with wet hands,


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