My Son on the Autism Spectrum Is Trying to Make Sense of His Experiences

“Mommy, it is all my fault.”

“What is your fault, honey? What happened?”

“At the mall. The Easter Bunny… I was just scared. It’s all my fault.” My son, curled up in bed tired from his day, is lamenting not wanting to take a picture with the Easter Bunny. Not unusual for a 4-year-old to be scared in this situation. A 6-foot rabbit isn’t something you see every day. His wanting, wanting, wanting to see the Easter Bunny, followed by crying, screaming, hurling himself, and trying to slip through the rope and stanchions to escape the photo opp is why he is so sad tonight. He just couldn’t find the words to tell us he was scared at that moment, two years ago.

Fast forward one year from the Easter Bunny incident; we receive his autism spectrum disorder diagnosis.

Fast forward another year to tonight — his anxiety is recalling the event, and he now has the words to tell us how he felt then, and how he still feels sorry.

I can’t help but wonder how many times he has thought about that day, and so many other days like it.

I can’t help but wonder how many other meltdowns he remembers, and if or when he will talk to us about them. I wonder if he understands why there is an aide especially for him in his Kindergarten classroom to help with concentration, to help him from being overwhelmed by other students and lashing out, and to allow him sensory breaks. I wonder if he understands why he sees yet another therapist, a “play doctor,” in the evenings twice a month now to help him become a super cool “Social Detective,” looking for clues on how others feel and why.

I also wonder if he understands that he continually amazes me with how far he has come, expanding his vocabulary and patience and self-awareness. I wonder if he sees how talented he is with puzzles and problem solving and numerical skills. How funny he is when he tells jokes, and how much joy it gives me to hear him quote entire scenes from movies, one after another, and sing the songs from them. His memory inspires me.

Part of me hopes he remembers incidents that aren’t so pleasant so he can learn from them in hindsight, but it breaks my heart to know that his aniety and his incredible memory can’t seem to allow him to let go of them.

We didn’t make him take the picture that day. I hope he remembers we didn’t make him, and knows that next year, if he is feeling brave, he will have another chance.

I hope he remembers tonight, when I thanked him for telling me how he felt, and that it is OK. We understood he was scared, and didn’t want him to do something he was scared to do, and we love him.  No matter what.

Getty image by NRuedisueli

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