Unexpected Kindness

Posted: December 13th, 2008 under life on the spectrum, socialization.

Famiies with an autistic member are used to the opposite–criticism, ridicule, denial that the individual has a “real” problem, scorn, etc. We often don’t get kindness where we most expect and hope for it–from family, acquaintances, members of a faith community. But we are also occasionally touched with unexpected kindness by strangers, and this seems like a good time to mention it…and learn how to be kinder ourselves.

In a hotel in New Zealand, about ten years ago, our son was sick–had, we discovered, a serious ear problem that required surgery before we could leave (we had to change airline reservations and plans, as well as find a surgeon.) Everyone–the hotel staff, the surgeon, the surgeon’s staff–was patient with us, gentle with our autistic son.

Once when I was buying shoes for our son–at an age where he was very stressed by stores and nonverbal and I was trying very hard to prevent a meltdown while still getting the shoes–the woman who brought out the shoes said ‘You do so well with him–” and I nearly burst into tears. (Mothers of autistic preschoolers don’t get many compliments.)

There was the shy construction worker who said “Don’t worry–I have a co-worker who can’t talk and he’s one of the best, and so kind–your son will do fine.”

The woman at church (when we finally found an autism-friendly church) who called me up to tell me how much she enjoyed having our son in the congregation. (Burst of happy fireworks on that one!)

Every one of the incidents I remember, though not always the faces and names (i have a face-recognition problem that’s only gotten worse with age.) Little sparks of light down the years, wonderful little bursts of hope and joy that made going on seem possible even in the most difficult periods.

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