Sunday, September 23, 2012

Unexpected surprises: this is autism

The most unusual thing happened today.

And yet, it seemed like the most natural thing in the world.

I was at a chemist, getting my mother's medication, my mum in law in tow. That's not the unusual part - that's totally normal these days.

No, what was confronting and strangely exhilarating was walking into the chemist, spotting a cute looking 8 year old-ish boy, hearing him speak no more than five words... and knowing immediately in my bones he was autistic.

I'd never seen this boy before, never met his dad who was now in the process of using the counting-before-you-get-in-big-trouble approach ["Ezra! Okay, that's one, two...] and yet I was so drawn to them I just couldn't explain it.

"Oh, so you use the counting approach, eh?" I asked cautiously, as I slowly sidled up behind him.

His kind face swung around. "Yes, I have to. Sometimes... it works!"

"Yes, I understand," I nodded. 

I asked Ezra's father - Anthony, I soon learned - how old his son was. Eight. Guess number one: spot on. Ezra soon surfaced from behind the shelves of myriad toothpastes, incontinence pads, and strange slimming teas and showed me his gorgeous, freckle-speckled face, and tufts of beautiful red hair peeking under his kiddie-sized fishing hat.

"Hello Ezra! Nice to meet you!"

"Hello! Nice to meet you too!"

We spoke just enough for a few exchanged pleasantries - with both Ezra and Anthony - until I couldn't contain myself another minute.

"I hope you don't mind I ask you this question," I started gingerly to Anthony, in a lowered tone, "But... is your son... autistic?"

He paused for one second, enough to read my face, and replied: "He's actually getting a diagnosis to confirm his autism tomorrow!"

His face was a mixture of 'how did you know?' and a distinct wash of relief.

He continued: "He's actually been diagnosed with ADHD for many years, medication to treat it, everything. But now he has a new paediatrician [lined up by Aspect Australia, he told me, excitedly adding that he somehow got in after a few months wait, not the usual two years] and we are finally getting the diagnosis I always had a feeling about. I mean, they can diagnose autism at age four now, you know!"

I nodded. "Yes, my son was diagnosed at age two - and I just knew at age one and a half."

Funnily, not once did Anthony ask me how I knew about Ezra, or why I was even asking. Not at any point did he tell me to mind my own business.

And I in turn felt a wave of relief for a man I had just met. I mean, imagine: the wrong diagnosis all this time... and now this. Finally.

And as I said my goodbyes and good lucks with it all [in another strange-for-me move I asked for his number, as I'd like to check in with him in a few days] I left on a unusual high. To feel a connection like that with a stranger - and to have him excitedly tell me how very talented his young son is ["in kindergarten, he was the only kid in his class who could count to 500!"] - was so special.

I recounted the whole story to my mum in law [who had been - rather hilariously - using one of those weigh-yourself-and-get-your-BMI machines] and she didn't bat an eye. She knows me too well.

Later, I thought to myself: gosh, what are the chances of something like this happening?

Well, I have learned that the chances of anything like this happening are high, if you: ask, interact, be nosy, and cultivate curiosity. In every situation.

And the biggest, best surprises of all always blossom right before your very eyes.

In fact, unexpected surprises are at the very heart of autism... in every possible way.

1 comment:

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