We were eating at Cracker Barrel today, and Mario ordered chicken and dumplings, so I had to pick all the dumplings out of the bowl and put them on the plate with his corn while making sure that just the right amount of juice did not touch the corn. Corn and dumplings both have juice, you see. And of course, each food has to be eaten with a separate utensil and the one used to dig out the dumplings can’t be the one used to actually eat them.
But anyway, getting to the point: the waitress came by and made a big verbose deal about him not liking the chicken and went on for a bit about how we should have ordered just the side of dumplings, which turned out to be a good thing because she voluntarily went and got him more dumplings for free. At which point I said, as I often do, “He is very particular when it comes to food.” And Mario said, “Um, Mommy, you are wrong. You should have told her that I am picky.”
Now, that statement just encapsulates Asperger’s to me. You were wrong when you said I was particular, because I am actually picky.
Later, I began to analyze my information sharing habit when I remembered an article I read yesterday on Gawker. Someone wrote in and asked for advice on a co-worker who was bugging them about what they had brought to eat for lunch every day. The letter writer and the comments section both were very offended by the idea of co-worker asking what the letter writer was eating, because people have OMG Food Issues. And I thought, “but people ask us questions about what Mario is or is not eating every single day, and I just explain it every time, and it never occurs to me to mind. Hey, hold on a minute, am I wrong for not minding?”
In my mind, when I tell someone that he has eating issues, or that he has autism (useful when someone is trying to talk to him and he chooses to completely ignore them) that I am both nicely telling them to back off, and I am raising awareness. And it’s not like, in this world today, people need to be farther apart or more closed off, within reason, right? I mean, we’ve got isolated covered, so why not ‘splain yourself if someone takes an interest. Does that make sense? Or am I just rationalizing the fact that I get intimidated into telling nosy people why Mario acts the way he does? Am I wrong for trying to blind them with science?
Mario knows that he has “rules,” and that he has to stim, and he knows why. He will tell other kids in a second, when they ask why he’s doing what he’s doing, that he has autism, as a way of shutting down any ridicule.
So on the one hand, apparently discussing what someone is eating is completely verboten in polite society these days. On the other, why would you pass up a chance to bring about greater understanding, even if it just gets you the kind of understanding that brings some more dumplings? Dumplings are goooooood.
Remember a few years ago when it was a thing, or maybe it still is, to hand out business cards when your ASD kid was misbehaving in public that said something about how this is autism, and gave a little primer on the disorder along with a website? Do any of you do that? I never did it. My mom had cards made up, but I don’t think she ever handed any out. Do you tell strangers that your child has autism when they question his behavior, or before they do? Do you tell nosy people just to stay the hell back?