Tuesday, March 22, 2011

The Parenthood effect

Did you happen to catch the recent episode of Parenthood where Max finds out about his Asperger diagnosis by accident? I’ll admit that I hadn’t had THE conversation with either of my boys. I’ve talked about it with my husband many times, but we never felt like it was the right time to open that door. Watching how the episode played out and seeing how unprepared they were for having the conversation with their son really served as a reminder. My husband and I needed to get serious about planning out our own conversation and getting ready for that inevitable moment. I knew it would arrive sooner than later.
I could feel my Type-A brain kicking in and over-thinking things as usual. I had a million questions in my mind swirling around. When do we have the conversation? What do we say? How much detail do we go into? Do we need to have a book to read with him, or at least one to reference? Do I need to write up some notes to follow, like a list of talking points? How much information is too much? Should we create an analogy to make it easier to understand, or will that just confuse him more? What if he already somehow knows?   
Autism is a common word in our home. I run a support group and have a lending library with tons of books about autism. I also receive phone calls from other parents who have questions or need mentoring if they are new to the world of autism. He hears me talking with them about autism. I even have 2 autism bumper stickers on my car and I’ve seen Monkey reading them. Autism is not foreign to him, but I also know that he doesn’t specifically know what it means or that it applies to him or his brother.  
I’m lucky to have a great group of moms in my boys’ social skills groups, and we often have a chance to chat about various things related to our children. During one of the groups following the Parenthood episode, I asked them how they each handled this situation with their child. I discovered I was the only one in the room who hadn’t specifically told her son, “You have autism.” I knew the time was now. We had to start the conversation soon.
My husband and I have been talking about how to best accomplish this. We have also discussed when I should share the information with his class. I’ve brought this topic up multiple times at his school, and each time we ultimately decided to wait a little longer. I think I’m done with waiting.
I began looking at Amazon.com for inspiration on children’s books related to the topic of talking about having autism. After I had a small list going, I checked my local library’s online catalog to see if they had any of these books available. Unfortunately, they didn’t. I placed some holds on a few selections that I thought might provide some sort of helpful information, hoping they would give me some ideas that I could elaborate on.
Last weekend, a moment of opportunity came. Monkey was talking with me about his computer and he unexpectedly used the word autism. I knew this was as good a time as I might ever get. I still had nothing firm in my mind about what to say, but I had an idea of how to start. So, we had a nice little chat. It was our first real conversation about autism. I know it’s the first of many.
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