As Autism Awareness Month draws to a close, we had a little breakthrough today. (We also had a few breakdowns, but, you know, whatever.) The breakthrough is that Little Dude is aware of his own autism.
I'm pretty sure he's known for a long time that he was different. I wrote a piece for Salon about Little Dude's description of how his brain works. Even at age four, he could articulate that he knew other people's brains worked differently.
He never asked me why his brain was different.
We have always been open about Little Dude's Asperger Syndrome. From the time of his diagnosis, we've never treated it like a secret, or something to be ashamed of. It's just been there. But I never sat him down and said, "you have something called Asperger Syndrome."
Today, our school district had an Autism Awareness Fair. As we were getting ready to leave, Little Dude said: "Wait -- do I have autism?"
And I said, "yes."
As a family, we've talked about how people's brains can work differently. The Pork Lo Maniac and I both have ADHD; Cookie and I both have anxiety. It's just the way we are. So it was easy for me to explain to Little Dude, "You know how people's brains work differently? There's just a name for the way yours works. It's called Asperger Syndrome, which is a form of autism. It's part of why you're so awesome at math, and Legos, and video games."
Little Dude didn't say anything. (However, an autistic person not saying anything doesn't necessarily mean they're upset. For Little Dude, it usually just means that no comment is required.)
Cookie said, "it's why you're so awesome."
The Peanut Butter Kid said, "it's like another word for extra awesome."
Little Dude thought about that. "That's probably why I'm so good at wrestling. I can kick Daddy's butt."
The fair was decorated with balloons. Balloons of Doom. Little Dude hates balloons like I hate clowns. I guess that's not a common autism thing, because if it is, I'm sure they wouldn't have had a Hindenburg's worth of balloons all over the place.