The other day I was walking home with Bubby from school and out of nowhere he dropped a bomb of a question. It's one of those that even if you rehearsed it and was ready you'd still stammer through the words to explain.
Bubby: Why, do I have autism?
I paused. I didn't know what to say. I didn't know how to answer that. My brain in literal, and so is his. He wants an answer, not some sugarcoated 'because, you're special' crap.
Me: Well, because your brain works differently than most other people's.
Him: Like yours?
I paused again. We were on a crowded sidewalk with little listeners around. I was am unsure how much I want to discuss my own autism at this moment. But, then I remembered that I must be a good role model for him. I must do what I say and I always tell him having autism isn't something bad. So, I know that I have to do the uncomfortable task of talking openly talking about it in front others.
Me: Yes. Like mine.
Him: I think I have more Asperger's than you. Who has more Asperger's? You or me?
Again, this is not easy stuff to answer! He has been giving this all a lot more thought than I ever thought he was. I don't propose that all of my answers that I gave were the best. I do want to be truthful and authentic in writing this by not dressing up what I said with what I know sounds better in hindsight.
Me: I don't think anyone has more or less Asperger's. Everyone's brain is different and how we see the world is different for each person. I just have a different kind of autism than you. You technically have autism, not Asperger's.
Him: Did you go to special classes, too?
Me: Well, no.
Him: Why not?
Me: Because, I didn't need them. My brother did, though.
Him: Your brother did? Does he have Asperger's.
Me: Yeah, I think so.
Him: Does my autism make me cry at school?
Me: It doesn't make you cry. It makes your brain have a hard time dealing with emotions. Sometimes, you can't process emotions very well, so you get overwhelmed and upset. You have to learn to know your feelings and deal with them responsibly. That's why we do lots of talk about deep breaths. I'm trying to teach you to effectively manage your feelings.
Him: I can't help it. Homework makes me cry!
He was crying about homework when I picked him up from school.
Me: Homework doesn't make you cry. How you feel about homework makes you cry. You can choose to be calmer about getting homework with practice. Homework is a part of life. Everyone has to do it, and they don't like it, either. It's important that you learn to not cry every time something happens that you think is too hard.
Him: I can't help it. School is too hard.
Me: Yes, you can help it. You have to learn. You want a job someday, don't you?
Him: I don't know.
Okay, that backfired on me. I really thought he'd say a solid yes!
Me: Well, you can't cry at work every time stuff gets difficult. You will still get upset and being upset is okay, but you must be responible for your own behavior. There's lots of stuff you can do to be responsible for your calming yourself down. You can take breaths and you can ask for a break, so that you can go to a quiet place. Those are things that work well to get calmer. If you get upset at school you can ask your teacher for a break. Maybe, you can take a walk to the office or another quiet place to get calmer.
That was pretty much the entire conversation. He did really well listening and sharing. It is seldom that he takes that many conversational turns with me, so I was happy to have a real conversation with him that was about something real, and not just me answering questions that he asks, which he already knows the answers to. I was shocked about the amount of attention he was paying to his own differences and to others around him. He was paying a lot more attention that I had originally thought him to be. That is how he tends to work, though. He keeps things in while he processes them, and then when he thinks he has figured them out, he lets it out. He did that with talking. He did not hardly talk at all until he was 4, but when he did it was all of the sudden, and in sentences. It's either on or off with him. Just like his mom!