The other day I was having a meeting about potential freelance work.
As a home-based writer and editor I’ve had to try to become something of an expert at ‘kitchen table networking’ – horrible, trendy phrase that basically means pitching out what you do to all manner of people you meet in the expectation that some of them might be in need of words for websites or a bit of PR support or have a great story that they’d not only love you to pen for them but want to see in a magazine… (There’s more hits than misses, obviously!)
Over the past year – since we discovered Blue-eyed boy is ‘on the spectrum’, atypical, whatever you want to call it – I’ve also become something of an expert at weaving this into conversation if I need to explain how I fit my work around it.
But when it came up during this particular discussion, and I dropped the A word, the face of the person opposite me immediately fell.
“I’m SO sorry,” they said, as a semi-awkward silence hung in the air for a couple of seconds.
“Oh. Well, that’s okay. My son is actually doing really well,” I replied, in slightly bemused fashion.
I drove home still feeling a tad puzzled.
Is it the done thing to say you’re sorry when someone tells you their child has a specific condition or additional needs? Doesn’t it sound a bit like you’re apologising for their child? Is this exactly what I would have said a few years back before our family’s own autism journey began?
Not that there’s really any right or wrong here, at least to my mind. No the thing that I found eye-opening about the whole scenario was how now, a little more than 12 months after Blue-eyed boy’s diagnosis, it wouldn’t even occur to me to feel sorry that he is autistic.
It’s just always there, an integral part of who he is, the quirky to his character if you like, and 99 per cent of the time there’s nothing I would change about it because the A word goes hand in hand with Blue-eyed boy and will do every single day he’s on this planet.
Of course there are things about it that I could do without. His occasional sensory overload on the school run meaning I end up lugging him to and from the car in my arms reminding myself just how unfit I am.
The fact that even a slight cold can throw off his eccentric eating habits for days leaving us limited food options of cereal, brioche and pasta. All beige coloured, of course.
The lack of extended conversation (three word sentences are EPIC!) meaning that although he’s really popular at nursery, I’ve only found this out by chance because he can’t tell me the names of any of his friends.
But hey, these just make life a little less dull.
So from the little boy currently eating his spaghetti looking out over our back garden and the fields beyond hugely enjoying his dinner entertainment of a tractor (‘ello twactor!) driving back and forth out of the window, please don’t feel sorry about his autism.
By all means apologise if it makes you feel better to have something to say, we appreciate the sentiment – but in this house quirky rules.