When Husband and I find ourselves in social situations with our daughter, we often wonder if and when we should “play the a-card” as I put it. That is, when is it better to tell people she has autism as a way of explaining strange behavior vs. not singling her out as different. In the past I think I have been to quick to blurt out “she has autism” because I often get denials like “oh, she’s so young, how could you know that” or “she seems normal to me” (see my post on Breaking the Parenting Mold called “Stop Trying to Convince Me My Daughter Doesn’t have Autism”). So now I try to hold my tongue, because I recognize that while her stimming behaviors or language delay or lack of social interaction may be obvious to me, it’s not always as obvious to others, and it’s usually better for everyone if people treat her like every other kid. Most people write off her odd behaviors as just being a toddler. It’s only after spending a lot of time with her that the differences become more obvious.
There’s also that look that I get when I say “she has autism.” A look of pity and confusion, followed by other parents keeping their distance. I’m willing to bet every parent of a kid with “special needs” knows that look. Or, less commonly, “oh, my sibling/cousin/friend’s sibling has autism!” followed usually by a description of how they function as an adult, ranging from “she lives in a group home, but seems to like it there” to “he made it through college and has a good job now.”
Sometimes though playing the A-card is necessary and can illicit help and understanding we might not otherwise get. For example, we took our daughter to an event with bouncy houses. She’s obsessed with her shoes and screams at taking them off, but wanted to get in a bouncy house. The employee supervising said that kids had to take their shoes off, but when we tried she screamed and it was clear that removing her shoes was traumatic for her. We explained that she is autistic and the employee kindly made an exception and allowed her in with shoes.
So readers (all 10ish of you?) when do you play the A-card for your kids/relatives, or for yourself if you are on the spectrum? What results have you gotten?