Chapter 20: The Autism Moms
The Autism Moms
I met them at a birthday party organized by a smart autism mom from Good School. This mom simply sent invitations to school and asked the teacher to give them to all the kids in her child’s age group. Being new to this school, I did not know anyone yet. I spotted the opportunity and brought Dan to the party.
We arrived at a spacious indoor playground filled with climbers, slides and swings. Dan ran to the ball pit and began chewing on the balls. I looked around. The other kids were each playing in their own corner. I glanced at the other parents, standing peacefully and watching the kids and realized that here, it was OK. The kids were having fun, and that was all that mattered.
The real party was for us, the moms. We inhaled each other. Just like me, the other autism moms did not get to socialize. Like Dan, their kids did not have play-dates. They did not go to the regular classes other kids went to, like music or gymnastics. They never played independently in the playground in a way that enabled their moms to talk to other parents.
Just like me, at a certain point in their lives, the autism moms found themselves separated from the “normal” world. For most it was around the time of the diagnosis or when things in their child’s life started to “go wrong.”
Therefore just like me, all the moms were lonely. That’s why this party was nothing less than air for us.
And you had the full selection of moms to choose from.
There was the stressed out mom. This mom never leaves a rock unturned. She knows all the autism therapies available. She is always looking to learn more. At this point she has earned her theoretical Ph.D. in autism and its treatment. She quit her job and was dedicating her life to healing her child.
This mom’s child was naturally on the diet, which meant that all the food he ate was gluten free, casein free, sugar free, you-name- it free. Everything had to be organic and he was getting a number of supplements that put my grandmother’s selection of pills to shame. He was also going through a special cleansing procedure in order to “clean his body from all the shit.”
The stressed out mom believed that her son’s autism originated from the vaccines he was given as a baby, and she was doing everything possible to undo the damage caused to his body.
The next mom was the mom in denial. Her child went to the autism school together with the other kids at this party, but she believed it was just “for now,” because the whole thing was an innocent mistake. Her child will soon be better and out of there. This mom looked with pity at the other kids and the other moms, who were really in this, thinking “poor them.”
Then there was the depressed mom. She just went through another round of evaluations by a child psychologist and received yet another assurance of her child’s diagnosis of “severely autistic.” As always she went in hoping to hear something new, something encouraging. She thought her child was in a much better place this time. The expert thought differently and that is what counts. The depressed mom was taking time to process the news and in the meantime just could not see the point of this miserable life.
That’s the thing about autism. The numerous ways it presents itself and the different ways that children progress through it are very confusing. Nobody knows how any child will end up, especially when they are young. So when you come to an evaluation you always have your hopes up. “Maybe this person will finally tell me that at some point things will be different.” And yet again you get depressed, just like at the time of the first diagnosis at age two or three.
On the other end of the spectrum, you had the mom whose child was about to be mainstreamed. Oh, that is exactly where you want to be if your child has autism. You have been through it, served your time, and now you are released. You and your child will belong to the typical world from now on. The smile on this mom’s face could not have been bigger. Everyone loved her and everyone wanted to be her, including me.
If I am to be perfectly honest, I have been and still am, each and every one of these moms.
At the party, when I looked around at the other moms, I felt safe. For the first time in a while, I felt like I belonged.
When the kids were having cake I asked them, “does anyone want to meet for lunch or something next week?”
My heart was pounding. What if they all ignore me? What if I was imagining the feeling of “we are in this together?”
Depressed mom was the first one who stopped cleaning her daughter’s hand with an antibacterial wipe and lifted her eyes: “I’d love to!” she almost yelled.
“I’m around,” said stressed-out-mom. “Me too,” said mom-in-denial.
I could not believe it but we all agreed on a day for the coming week.
At that moment, I knew there was hope. I was not the only one lonely and longing for friendship.
What I did not know yet, was that these women were going to be not only my friends but also my sisters. They were to become the rocks I could lean on and the islands I could swim to.