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When a Little Boy Asked, 'Is She Still Autistic?'

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I had a great, albeit brief conversation with a 7-year-old about autism this week. We were at a small gathering with the kids from my daughter, Little Bird’s old school. As soon as we got there, LB and I headed down to the basement to where all the kids were playing. There were three boys and one girl, LB’s BFF, a typically developing, stunning sweetheart who happens to have brothers with Fragile X.

We reached the bottom of the stairs and one of the boys said, “Hey! {Little Bird} is here! We need to be extra careful now!” On the one hand, I really appreciate that he was looking out for her, but on the other it makes me a little sad. Then, it happened:

Boy: Is she still autistic?

Me: Yep! Hey, do you still have brown hair?

Boy: Ummm, yeah. Maybe you should give her an operation so she’s not autistic anymore.

Me: But why would I want to do that? We love {LB} just the way she is! {LB’s BFF}, don’t you love her just the way she is?

Girl: Yep!

Another boy: I like her, too!

Boy: But if she isn’t autistic, she could do more things like have sword fights and fencing!

Me: Well, sword fights aren’t for everyone. Plus, you know there are a lot of things that she can do.

At this point, he went ahead and had a sword fight with the air. Then a little bit later, he came back to me…

Boy: Were you autistic when you were a kid?

Me: Nope. But you know what I was? Short! I’m still pretty short, huh?

Boy: Yeah.

Me: Yep, and I’m okay with that.

Little Bird was having a rough time there and we left with her in snotty tears, which always sucks. That doesn’t happen a lot, but it does happen — the whole leave-before-the party-is-over (or sometimes even getting started), knowing-that-the-“normie”-parents-are-feeling-sorry-for-me thing.

Still, I define this experience as a success. I was reminded that kids are curious, they want to know about autism, and they have questions. So, parents, let’s answer those questions. Let’s pounce on these teachable moments. Not only are these kids the peers of our babies, but they’re the future advocates. I believe the children are our future. Teach them well and let them lead the way.

Including our children in activities with typically developing peers and educating those neuro-typical kids is the biggest and best anti-bullying campaign I can think of. What a great way to raise emotionally intelligent and compassionate kids. So, do you want a play date?

This post originally appeared on I’m Just That Way.

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Originally published: April 1, 2015
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