“Mommy, what’s autistic?”

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Wow, my child. That is a great question, and it’s a hard one for Mommy to answer. Even doctors don’t always know how to answer that question, but we need to try.

Sweetheart, autistic means that someone has autism, and autism means that their brains work a little bit differently to yours and mine. Some things are much easier for them: they can be really good at seeing patterns or building things or solving math problems. Sometimes it’s easier for them to not get jealous when they don’t get the same things as other kids. Sometimes they are extra good at remembering the words to songs and stories. Their brains find that kind of stuff really easy.

But autism also means that their brains find some things much harder than you and I do. It is harder for them to make friends and to talk about their feelings. It can be harder to look friends in the eye or to know how to share or take turns. Sometimes kids with autism need a lot of help to do things that you find really easy: like going on a surprise adventure or to a party full of new people.

They aren’t better or worse kids, sweetheart, their brains are just different. They have different strengths and weaknesses to you.

I know it can be really frustrating for you. I know it is hard when we play with little Daniel that he takes your trucks and screams if you want to have a turn. I know you feel like you ask him for a turn, but he doesn’t listen. But sweetheart, it’s not that he isn’t listening. Kids with autism get different listening messages to their brain.

When you are playing, you hear maybe one or two sounds: the sound of your truck, and the sound of the voices around you. But when Daniel plays, he hears LOTS of different sounds: he hears the sound of the wind in the trees and the traffic on the street and the crunching of steps on the gravel and the sounds of the truck and the music playing next door… and also the voices around him. We need to try and be patient when we are playing with our autistic friends because they have a lot more sounds in their heads than you, sometimes, and it can be hard for them to focus on your voice.

I appreciate that you share your toys and your life with Daniel, my boy. He needs friends, even though it seems like he wants to be alone. I know it can be hard, but showing love to him is important, and it will make your life and his better for it.

Maybe that’s too long an answer, love, but as I said – Mommy’s not sure how to explain it. I just know we need to be patient and to be loving, because we need the kids with autism in our lives, just as much as they need us.



Photo credit: autismlink.com, “Puzzle” from Andreanna Moya (Copyright from Flickr Creative Commons)

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14 thoughts on ““Mommy, what’s autistic?””

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  3. One of the things I’m finding hardest right now, is helping siblings and friends to understand our son’s autism. It can be so hard for them to deal with and yet one of my deepest fears is that they will get tired of his behaviour and reject him as a friend. And he so needs these friends! This explanation is so helpful and so compassionate. Thanks.

    1. Thanks so much for commenting, Sue. There are four boys in our life right now with autism, one of them my nephew. We love these boys, and I love their mommies so very very much. Moms of autistic kids have to do so much advocacy for their children. I shared this in the hope of being able to add to that advocacy and add a voice from someone who’s not directly involved, but is standing really close by. Grace and peace to you as you continue to care for your precious one.

  4. Thanks for this. I am grateful that my child with autism is my third child, so his life is full of love from his older two neurotypical siblings. But I still hope that he will find more and real friends in his life as he grows up. He will, if more parents talk to their kids like this. Thank you!

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