Kyle tweeted, "Driving through my mom's town where she grew up and she showed us where she made out with boys." Ryan, while covering his ears, shouted, "Please stop talking, you are burning my ears with your inappropriate childhood!". Emma, who was the only one not embarrassed by my lack of filter sharing, was most intrigued by where I went to dance and the fact that I did dance. Poor innocent thing, was picturing her young, wrinkle free mommy wearing a tutu and a leotard while dancing across a stage like a sugar plumb fairy in The Nutcracker, not like a head banging groupie with big 80's hair wearing a black unitard and cut off Levi's. She did get the stage thing right, however, in her vision, I'm sure she didn't see the bouncers tossing me off the stage as I tried to grab the microphone.
It was hot and sunny and the only place that offered shade was underneath a pavilion where all the fans from both teams were sitting, yelling, cheering, and clapping for their team. In other words, poor Ryan thought while Mom was so busy driving down Memory Lane, she must have missed a turn and drove him right to Hell.
Too much heat, too much sun, too much noise, too many people and two wasp sightings were already taxing my boy, then an accidental Powerade spill all over his shirt and shorts, just about threw him over the edge. Ryan wanted his exact same shorts and shirt dried immediately, he wanted the game to end, and he wanted his extended family, who came to watch the game and who love him to pieces, to stop trying to make small talk. He became angry, cantankerous, and withdrawn. My trip down Memory Lane came to a screeching halt as I quickly made a U-turn onto Present Street.
For friends, family and baseball fans who don't "see" Ryan and who don't know him well, they don't see that the comfort of the chair he always sits in, regardless if his 83 year old grandfather does not have a chair, is the one familiar thing that feels like home to him in a strange place filled with sun, heat, wasps, shouty baseball fans, and wet, sticky Powerade. This chair is the one thing Ryan can count on not to disrupt his routine and make an already taxed out, overloaded sensory system, even worse. People who don't see Ryan believe he should not be catered to with special chairs, special routines, special food requests, special brands and special excuses because they believe Ryan will "get over it", "outgrow it" and "eat when he is hungry".
No matter how hard Dan and I try to educate, advocate, and explain how important it is for people who don't see Ryan to change their way of thinking, to see the world through his eyes instead of their own, to finally change the music, it's the same old song and dance. And even after all these years of dancing, my feet still get sore, my heart still gets heavy and my soul still gets weary as I desperately long for people to play a new song.
I try to understand, particularly for the older generation, that autism didn't always exist, but, neither did rock and roll, headbanging, hip thrusting and Elvis, yet over time these strange new ways, although still misunderstood by some, have been accepted by many. I wonder if Elvis' mom felt the judgmental stares of a generation boring through her as kids across the world started pelvic thrusting on the dance floor. Like any mom, I bet Mrs. Presley's shoulders were big enough to bear it. Regardless of the size of our shoulders, the weight of judgement and misunderstanding is still incredibly heavy.
My days of dancing on the stage (and subsequently being tossed off by the bouncers) may have come to an end due to my unitard and Levi's no longer fitting me and the arthritis forming in my old headbanger neck, but, my days of educating, advocating, and supporting my son and kids like him have only just begun. I will continue to dance in my kitchen where I can quickly find the Aleve and I will continue to advocate for children and families living with Autism in the hope that one day, a My Child has Autism card won't be necessary.
I hope that in time, for those folks who insist on continually dancing to the same old song, over and over again, that they will at the very least, one day change their tune and that the judgments, the stares, and the misunderstandings will disappear as quickly as my 1990's big hair, headbanging, dancing days. The song they hear, is truly making them miss out on the beauty of the dance.