I feel like I have so much to write about. I try to see the world through Mateo’s eyes and put myself in situations and understand how he sees things. I try to imagine how things feel to him. I often wish I had Sensory Goggles that I could put on to see just how he views the world.
We went to the Renaissance Faire this weekend. I don’t know if all of you know what that is, but to summarize it’s pretty much a bunch of adults dressing up in costumes from pirates to knights to queens and gypsies and acting out the Renaissance times. My daughter got to dance for Queen Elizabeth, Mateo got to wear a knight’s helmet and hold his spear, they both rode a gigantic wooden rocking horse and excitedly watched jousting in a stadium.
So you can imagine for a boy with Autism, it’s pretty much sensory overload at every turn. I can see in Mateo’s eyes that he enjoys the excitement of it all. But I know the large crowds of unfamiliar faces must be very overwhelming to him. When Mateo is excited and overwhelmed he stims, and he stims a lot! His hands will fly in front of him rapidly or he will bounce up and down and move his hands really fast, he’s trying to process everything and feel grounded. Not easy in such a strange place.
I haven’t gotten comments in a long time about Mateo. I know to the average person who has no exposure to someone with Autism, his behaviors may seem a little odd. But I cannot imagine just making statements to someone about their child. It seems obvious to me, that there must be something going on, most children don’t just bounce up and down while their hands are flying in front of them rapidly. I can understand curiosity and wonder. But to be rude, that is unacceptable.
Of course there is lots of beer flowing at these events, many of the characters are carrying around metal ale cups filled with ale, so their judgment may be off kilter so to speak. First I was approached by a Pirate, who said- “that little boy keeps doing really weird stuff with his hands, there, you see that?” And I said, “Yes, my little boy has Autism and that’s why he does that.” I don’t even think the slurring Pirate heard my reply, but maybe he did. He walked up and gave Mateo two coins then past other coins out to the other children in our group.
Well my Mom instinct kicks in and I want to pull the guy aside and read him the riot act, but I just let it go, and shrugged it off to too much beer and ignorance.
Later the kids went on these gigantic wooden rocking horses, they were really incredible. They got a very long ride, and had a blast. Mateo was filled with excitement waiting to watch his friends go next and was jumping up and down flapping his arms. The man who gave him the ride said, “Well that’s quite the dance he has there!” then proceeded to laugh. Seriously? Dance? Ugh! I was having a hard time processing all of this too.
I know that no one meant any harm, or to be hurtful, but to me it is upsetting that so many people are still unaware of Autism. With 1 in 54 boys currently being diagnosed, I would think the word must be getting out. Our kids must be out in the real world. Does no one notice them? Or if they do, the courtesy to ask a polite question and not mock my son or laugh?
Today was the first rain storm of the year. I was grateful for the much needed rain, but for Mateo it’s a nightmare. Every drop hitting him is sensory overload. I imagine it must feel like every drop pricking his skin, the noise of it hitting the street must vibrate through him. He stands there unable to move, paralyzed by the drops. And of course this morning we could not find the umbrella, the black umbrella that is. The only one we could find was pink. Mateo is very masculine these days, refuses anything that is at all girl-like. I think that’s very typical for a 6 year old boy. So he refused to even stand under the pink umbrella. Instead struggled getting to class with his dad, they were almost late because each step was so labored.
I wish I had those sensory goggles and a sensory body suit so I could feel the paralyzing rain, and see the crowds of faces the way Mateo does. I hope he doesn’t hear the laughs or reactions, but I know he must. Just for once I’d love to step into his world so maybe I could help the world better understand him.