How a Kiss From My Son Broke a Common Autism Myth for Me
As parents of kids with disabilities, certain challenges become so routine they might not seem like challenges anymore until you see a neurotypical child with their parent.
After our usual challenges with morning routine, what made one particular day frustrating was the constant calling of places to figure out a place to send my son for summer camp that fits my budget and his needs, but I was not able to find one. That, followed by all the bickering with the insurance on what they would and would not cover for my son. To add to the list, I was trying to put in place an in-home ABA program for my son which I was not having a lot of success with. Needless to say, by the time my son came back from school, I was exhausted and at the edge of my patience.
This was also during a time when my son felt the constant need to ask for a plastic straw he could chew up and then ask for another one in less than a minute. I had not given him free access to my stash of straws, only to ensure some rationing. But now I was almost regretting my decision. While I was trying to talk to people over the phone and figure something out, he was persistent in his request for the straws, making it unable for me to concentrate on anything else. So finally, I lost it! I think I slammed the phone, gave my son a handful of straws and told him I was not talking to him. I was tired, and it clearly showed on my face and my voice. I needed a break and I knew I could not get it. It made me sad and mad and everything in between.
I turned my face away from my son — something a behavior therapist had once told me about — to show my discontent with the whole situation. I realized it was not my boy’s fault this day had turned out to be the way it did, but his incessant request for a straw every few seconds was just the last straw ( no pun intended)! I was on the brink of crying when my son reached out his tiny little hands, held my face between his palms and said: “Mumma, stop.”
This is what my son says whenever he wants a certain something to “go away,” and at this point of time he wanted his mom’s anger to go away. Then, he pulled my cheeks closer and gave me three loud, sloppy kisses with a very clearly emphasized “muaah” sound.
Now, just to give context, my son has never, never ever spontaneously given me a kiss. Never! This was huge! Not just did my frustration fizz away, I was overwhelmed by all that love and now I was crying, not out of frustration, but out of joy! I’ve always been the one to ask him to give me a kiss, or asked him to say he loved me or requested him to give me a hug — all gestures of love meaningful to me and asked for by me; it never was spontaneous. But this! Not only did he realize that mom was upset, he also knew how to communicate love in a way I understood with that loud articulation of a kiss sound!
Now if someone told me that kids on the spectrum did not show emotions or empathize, I would have a hard time believing that. They may not know how to show those emotions all the time in ways we are used to seeing, but that does not mean they lack emotions and empathy.
Sometime what we see is not what it actually is. My son taught me this with his kiss. When someone cannot communicate well, it’s easy to assume a lot of things about them, it’s easy to think of them as insignificant, invisible, irrelevant and insensitive simply because they have no way to express themselves. My son shattered that myth for me.
For me, it was that kiss. For you, it might be something else. If we are willing, we will find the connection we think we have been missing. People on the autism spectrum are not insensitive. They do love and care.