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Finding your kindness: Autism and COVID-19

Apr 5, 2020reThinking Autism blog

Finding your kindness: Autism and COVID-19

I’m holding my son’s hand as we walk through the parking lot toward the grocery store. People give us looks. He’s 17 and they likely cannot understand why we’re holding hands.

We’re used to this but the judgement seems to be ramped up lately. I understand that during these times many are frightened. Trust me when I say that parents of children with disabilities truly grasp that feeling of being on high alert for every detail that may somehow matter to someone’s well-being. We also understand the toll that takes on you.

My son’s ASD isn’t really noticeable when we’re walking through a parking lot but it does impact him severely and there is no way he can understand let alone implement social distancing. There is no one else to look after him and we need food so we will hold hands for the entire grocery trip. When he starts ‘dancing’ or saying ‘bananananas’ repeatedly and too loudly or trying to leave my side I will encourage him not to do any of those things because people startle easily, they stare, they sometimes shake their heads. We’re more than six feet distant, have been socially isolating (it could be said that we’re world-class when it comes to socially isolating) but we seem different and unsafe, I suppose..

“Trying times can bring out both the best and the worst in people.

…But please don’t let your frustration and worry prevent you from seeing that people like my son and I are doing our very best to be good citizens.”

Trying times can bring out both the best and the worst in people. Yes, there are people who are willfully ignoring the social distancing being asked of us, still shaking hands, still holding parties. But please don’t let your frustration and worry prevent you from seeing that people like my son and I are doing our very best to be good citizens.

Please know that neither my son nor I would ever choose to be careless with someone’s health or happiness, but his autism, invisible as it may seem from time to time, might make you wrongly assume that. I can promise that we’re being incredibly, pain-stakingly careful. I’ve planned this grocery trip with more thought than I used to in another lifetime plan weekend getaways. My son is always, always, doing his very best to cooperate.

We hope that you, a stranger in the grocery store aisle or passing us at the park can find some kind thoughts for our efforts and the efforts of the thousands of families like ours. It’s my great hope that more and more people are coming around to the truth that we are all in this together, COVID-19 or not. We always have been and a smile, some patience, some kindness can lift all of us.

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