I’m usually not an anxious person. I have my moments, but thankfully I don’t suffer from anxiety.
But put me in a room full of kids, and I will feel like I am going to explode. I become a completely different person. Someone I don’t recognize nor really like.
I am on such high alert. I have to be. My kid hasn’t liked other children since day one. And he isn’t afraid to show it. A hit, a pinch, a tackle to the ground, he’ll do them all.
And I feel I have to do everything in my power to stop those things before they even happen. So in my eyes, the less kids around -- the better.
Last summer we got new neighbors. We live in a subdivision, but 3/4 of our lot is surrounded by woods. So it feels a little more country than sub-like. And the one house next door now happens to have a little boy that is four, and typical in every way.
Last weekend when we had beautiful 60 degree weather in Michigan, everyone and their brother was outside. It has been a long winter, and we’re all excited to be outside. Even Noah.
So outside in the backyard we went. Before we could even make it to the swing set the neighbor boy, we’ll call him T, smiled and shouted ‘Noah!’ and came bolting over towards us.
Immediately my heart started racing, and I felt the panic. I wanted to leave. But not really, because we wanted to be outside too.
T ran up to Noah and started asking him a million questions, and tried to grab at what was in his hand — and this is all appropriate for kids, I’m not saying the kid was out of line or anything. It’s just Noah, is Noah.
And so he pinched T, and then tackled him to the ground while crying and yelling. T seemed a little confused but I just told him sorry and that Noah didn't mean it, he just likes his space.
But inside, I was screaming. I wanted T to leave. To stop asking questions. I immediately started thinking we should move. We don’t need neighbors. Then we won’t have anyone “bothering” us.
Noah then started walking off into the field, and so Adam and I followed, and of course so did T. He asked me more and more questions, and I barely answered them. I felt cheated. My first conversations with a kid shouldn’t be with someone else’s. They should be with mine.
After Noah checked out some twigs and rocks we all started to wander back towards the house, and T’s mom called over saying it was time to go inside. He did the typical four year old protest of a couple whiny no’s, but then started to walk back.
After a couple steps, he stopped and turned back to me. And I thought, ‘Ugh. Now what?’
He looked up at me and said ‘Noah’s mom...I like you.’ And then off home he ran.
Every single frustrating thought I had earlier was washed away. In fact, I felt embarrassed and ashamed of my thoughts. He’s just a kid, just like Noah.
A kid that deserves the same respect and treatment, even if it’s hard for me as an autism parent to be around him.
I realized having this little neighbor can be a learning opportunity for all of us.
Even though it’s challenging for Noah to be around kids, it’s so important. For so many reasons.
And it's important for T to be around Noah too. To be around nonverbal, and spinning, and lining things up.
It's also good for me. I have to grow too.
It’s supposed to be another beautiful day today in Michigan, and I actually hope we see our neighbors this afternoon. I’m excited to teach T about my little guy. This is where acceptance and inclusion starts. It starts with me.