10 Things to Do When Inviting an Autism Family to Your House
Eileen Shaklee, mom to a 13-year-old boy and the blogger behind Autism with a Side of Fries, shares her best advice for making visits with family and friends easier.
Credit: ©istockphoto.com / AleksandarNakic
There are friends and family that decide to perform the ultimate act of faith and trust and invite us over to your homes for a visit. Even though you’ve heard more than your fair share of stories that might scare you, you still like to have us over for a BBQ or a party. You're good eggs. We like you best. No really, we do. We talk about you all the time.
So here's a few tips that can help you help us have a successful outing. I know you didn't ask but since you are so swell I bet you'll read this anyway because you want to be the hostess with the mostest.
Give a head's up to the people living in your home that autism (and its entourage) is coming over. I'm not saying share it with everyone crossing your threshold BUT the immediate folks that live there would be nice (i.e. spouse, kids, grandma, etc.) You might want to prep your kids that yes, another kid is coming over but they may not want to play the same things as you do or with you at all. Tell Grandma that the kid in question isn't being rude when they don't respond to what grade they are in. Let your spouse know to keep those drinks topped off for that tired set of parents.
Secure the perimeter! The kid could be a runner. You might think at first: "Why are these parents up this kid's bum so much?" Well, there's a reason. I'm not asking you to build a fence or install ten new locks but if you have a fence, make sure it's shut. Inside event? Lock the back door. You don't need it open. Or close doors on any rooms you don't want my kid in because trust me, he will go in them. He's like Goldilocks. He likes to try out every one's bed. Feel no need to make yours if we come over. If the door is open he will be diving under the covers in a heartbeat when he needs a sensory break. We just saved you a chore! You're welcome.
Want to be super extra awesome and earn all sorts of good karma? Take over watching our kid so we can eat. Often parents tag team each other at these things but it’s nice to share a meal with my husband at the same time. So if tell us you got my kiddo, I will love you for life! You can even outsource this job to an older teenager. My sister-in-law has asked my nephew to keep tabs on the kiddo in exchange for extra video gaming/screen time. It's a currency that’s worth more than cash in her house. We get a nice visit with you. Your kids later can create a Minecraft masterpiece. Doesn't cost you a dime. Everyone wins!
Realize we might show up with our own food. This is not a snub at your cooking, we just know our kids can put your picky eaters to shame. You might be thinking: "No, I got the hot dogs or the gluten-free nuggets for that kid" but sometimes brands make ALL the difference. My brother-in-law used to assign us the job of bringing something to his parties that I knew my kid would eat. He knew it would be easier for us.
Oh my god! You're like so excited to tell us about this book you heard about or this story online you saw about autism. Stop! Ask yourself, is this person online? If they are, yes, they already have heard about the book "The Reason I Jump" or seen the picture of the kid that can draw all cityscape from memory. The YouTube clip of Carly, the girl that can't talk but can communicate by using a computer? Yep, seen it. No need to whip out your iPhone to show me. It's not that we don't appreciate your enthusiasm about this. We do think it's cool you're in the know. Here's the difference. If the reason you bring it up is because you want to talk about it in more detail other than "Oh you got to see this or Have you heard about?" then I am all in. But if it stops at, "Look, this kid draws from memory! I bet your kid can too!', my eyes are going to glaze over. Sorry. Remember not all kids are the same. My kid can barely sign his name because his fine motor skills are so bad. Telling me about this autistic artist really isn't as uplifting for me as you might think. So again, viral stories du jour, skip it. We already saw it in the newsletter.
We don't know all the autistic people in the world. Please don't tell me that your mail carrier’s girlfriend's daughter has a kid on the spectrum. I have not seen them at the secret autism meetings.
We live and breathe autism 24/7. Trust in the fact that we would love to talk about something else other than that topic. It's cool you're all down with us on all things autism. There are just many times I'd rather talk about this season's RuPaul’s Drag Race.
Realize our visits might be short. Or we might have to leave suddenly. Or we might need to take our kid into a quieter room for a bit. It's nothing against your party; our kid is just overwhelmed and needs a break. Being cool with that makes us relax. When we are calm, our kids will be too. So point out your DVD collection to us. Our kid just might need some Pixar therapy for a bit and then be good to go for dessert.
Woohoo! Successful visit. You decide that we are cool and want to do it again. You call us up on a whim and invite us over for pizza or something because you're wild and crazy and spontaneous. Then we do something awful like saying "no." Don’t take this personally. Maybe we’ve been up since 4 a.m. Maybe our kid has been having meltdowns all day and we are spent. Maybe we don't even have on our pants. We just know when it's a good day to throw caution and routine to the wind and when to just stick to what works. Maybe what is working that day is non-stop verbal scripting from Thomas the Tank Engine and chilling in a body sock under four couch cushions. Sometimes we’ve just got to roll with it. I might send over my husband to you so he can get a break or I might just put on a bra and happily escape Living La Vida Autism for a while.
We don't expect your kids to play with our kids. BUT (and you knew that was coming) I do hope your kids will be nice to my kid. That's all I ask. A little kindness goes a long way. Remember, you're the swell eggs we talk about at the secret autism meetings.
Bonus tip: A plate of fries will always go over well.
Autism is a trip New Jersey mom Eileen Shaklee didn't plan on, but she sure does love her tour guide. Join her adventures with a side of sarcasm (and fries) at Autism With a Side of Fries or on Facebook and Twitter.