I wanted to get this typed out yesterday, but it just wasn’t in me last night. I guess that is the hard part of writing, it can’t be forced and especially after a tiring day.
We decided to attend an event for Autism in celebration of World Autism Awareness Day, there was going to be dancers, a marching band, art and activities. It sounded like fun and my kids were both looking forward to it. I feel like we don’t spend a lot of time with our local Autistic Community and I want to dedicate more of my time to it.
We arrived as it started, the huge Marching Band danced and circled around near us, the music was loud, but Mateo doesn’t mind loud. Many other children covered their ears and looked stressed. I saw the stress and concern on the other parents faces. I am sure they are thinking- Why would you bring a 30 piece marching band to an Autistic event? But Mateo loves music, and drums and was thoroughly entertained. He and Maya danced to No Doubt and other modern songs as the band’s music filled the patio. I thought to myself, this is going to be a fun day.
Then we went inside, there was Art painted by people with Autism and it was beautiful. They designed a Treasure Hunt and asked the children questions about the art. Mateo answered a few of them and Maya answered them all. Then it was time for the Hip Hop dancers. It was a troupe made of children with and without disabilities. We were in a large room but there were quite a few people in there. Mateo sat by me and reached into my purse to retrieve my cell phone. I thought he was bored, I didn’t realize he was trying to tune stuff out.
Sometimes I feel clueless, like I should know these signs, I have seen them before. Why am I not getting it. Maya was enjoying the dancers, there was even a girl from her school there. I look down at Mateo and he looked up at me, eyes filling with tears and his mouth turned down in a frown.
Oh No! How did I not see it sooner, he was breaking down. Too many people, too much going on, sensory overload and fast. I ask him. “Do you want to go outside?”
He sobs, “NO!”
Do you want to go finish the Treasure Hunt?
He sobs again, with more frustration. “NOOOO!”
Let’s go outside I say. Reuben decides to take Maya to finish the treasure hunt so she can get her prize, and pick one up for Mateo too. Thank goodness there are two of us. I am thankful that we can try to make them both happy since their needs are so different at times.
Mateo gets out of the building and just starts running. “Wait up Teo!” I yell. As he just takes off down the sidewalk. I chase him. He runs towards the drive and I call to him. “Stop Teo that’s a road.” He stops and looks at me. A faint smile on his face. And then I take him across and he ran across the grass and stopped. He fell to his knees. I ran to him and wrapped my arms around him. He clung to me with all of his strength. And we just held each other.
I told him. “It’s ok Mateo. It’s ok to be overwhelmed and need a break. It’s ok to tell me you want to get out of here.” I think he tries to hold out as long as he can to make us happy. To hang in there because he knows we are having fun and doesn’t want to make everyone leave. He is so brave. He cares so much about everyone around him.
I can see the pain in eyes, he doesn’t want to disappoint anyone. I try to make him understand that it’s ok. He’s not disappointing us. We are proud of him. We want him to enjoy himself.
So World Autism Awareness Day wasn’t the celebration I expected. With Autism I never know what to expect. I never know what’s going to be around the next corner. But Mateo is always educating me, teaching me what he can handle and where his breaking points are. Some days he can be in a crowded place and feel fine, I don’t know the trigger. But all I can do is look for the signs.
Thanks for teaching me Mateo about what Autism really is and teaching everyone who is a part of our lives. That is what Autism Awareness is all about. That and everyone learning to accept you for the amazing, brave and caring kid that you are.