Like most afternoons, Lizzie and I decided to take a walk to the park across the street from our house. Unlike most afternoons, there was a large family barbeque going on in all areas of the park. There were little kids running around, chasing each other and flying kites. The older kids were playing basketball, and all the adults were congregated in the center of the park, sitting in folding chairs near the tables of food.
I thought maybe the crowd would be too much for Lizzie, but instead she walked right up to the adults and stood there observing the scene. I was so excited that she seemed interested in the people. They began talking to her, “Hi there. What is your name?” No response from Lizzie….of course. “Wow. You sure are cute. You have the most beautiful brown eyes. How old are you?” they continued with their questions. I began answering for her since I knew she would not. As we chatted for awhile longer, Lizzie walked amongst their smiling, happy faces and seemed to be making herself quite at home. She even hopped up on one of the empty chairs and began happily swinging her feet while scripting one of her favorite movies.
Normally, at home, Lizzie avoided being near people, even her family. She was happiest when playing alone in her room. So when I saw Lizzie put herself in middle of this festive, fun group, my hopes for her future began to rise. Maybe she really was capable of relationships. Maybe if we were just a little more fun at our house, then Lizzie would show more interest in us.
Soon it was time to go, and I said, “Lizzie. It is time to go home. Tell them goodbye.”
She looked toward the group of adults and said, “Goodbye tables. Goodbye chairs.”
The entire time I was chatting it up with the people to support Lizzie’s interest in them, Lizzie was actually more interested in the wide array of tables and chairs. Yep, that was autism in a nutshell.
As we walked away hand and hand, I started laughing hysterically. I must have looked totally nuts, but I knew if I didn’t laugh now, when I got home, I would never stop crying. Some days, looking insane in public was better than allowing autism to make me insane for real behind closed doors.
Julie Hornok is a short story writer, blogger, editor and passionate advocate for families living with autism. Her works have been seen in The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Living with Alzheimer’s, The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Devotional Stories for Wives, Thrive Magazine, www.dfwchild.com, and the Dallas Morning News Dallas Moms Blog. She is currently the editor of the National Autism Association of North Texas newsletter. When Julie isn’t busy driving her 3 kids all over the DFW Metroplex, she loves to give back to the community by planning special needs events. She also loves to share with others the benefits of Young Living Essential Oils. She can be reached at email@example.com or http://julieoilobsession.blogspot.com/