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What to Remember When You Meet an Adult Who Seems a Bit Different

The next time you are stuck at the grocery store, irritated with the man at the front of the growing line because he keeps chatting with the clerk, think of my boy.

The man might be verbally ruminating about new soda flavors he saw on TV or explaining his frustration that the store is out of the only bread he eats. How it is very important because he eats this bread at every meal.

He may also bring up the triangle-shaped crackers he saw on aisle seven. For him, this is so silly because crackers really should be square.

He’ll fumble with his money. Something that seems so simple for many has required intentional practice. He carefully counts and counts again.

He’ll often adjust his big, bulky headphones. At first, you probably thought he was listening to music, but really, they are there to block out the unwanted sounds, squeaky grocery carts, fluorescent lighting, beeping registers, that kind of distracting thing.

When he moans, chats to himself, and waves his arms, he is growing more uncomfortable and overwhelmed in this busy place. Moving his body and voice this way helps him stay calm.

Remember my boy.

Because one day, this will be him. While I don’t know exactly how he will behave, I do know he will be processing a lot just to be there.

I know he will have worked hard for years to be in that line alone, and I will be so proud of him for this.

I’ve seen him work harder than most for his entire life just to participate in this world. This work began long before his autism diagnosis at 3 years old or before any of the accompanying anxiety, sensory processing disorder, and obsessive-compulsive behaviors were ever put down on paper and filed away somewhere.

So please, remember this blue-eyed boy who loves pirates, music, and square crackers and whose hard work began when he was a toddler. The 1-in-54 whose brains work differently like his will grow up, and their hard work will remain, too.

Remember that you do not have to see the struggle for it to be there.

As his mother, I need you to be kind and patient with him. I beg that of you.

He works so hard.

This story originally appeared on Wilson’s Climb.

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