“Why won’t he talk to me?” the little girl with blond curls asks.

“Because he has autism,” I reply.

Sometimes it’s really hard for me, because every day I have to remind others of why my son is not typical.

With kids it’s easier.  They don’t fully understand what autism is, but they do understand that some children still don’t talk.  If they have been around younger children and babies, or around any child with special needs, they may still try to engage my son.  Most of the time, after no response or acknowledgement, they give up, and that’s ok.  I’m just so happy they tried.  There are some kids who ignore him completely, or yell, but they are in the minority. Overall, at the age of 4, the kids who tend to be around him “get it” as much as anyone.

With me, it’s hard. I worry about AJ climbing on things higher than himself. I probably hover a little too close on the playground and the worry note in my voice doesn’t dissipate easily.  I try to talk with other adults but often when I mention AJ has autism I get a blank look from them. Or an “Oh,” and then usually some sort of reason occurs to walk away.  Some of it is just cultural—we are in a day and age when strangers don’t talk as easily anymore, even about our kids.  But in a place where children still make friends with other children easily, I feel I am my son’s only friend at the playground.  I don’t think he cares about that at all, but I do.

I long for the day when a child will say, “This is my friend, AJ.” Even if AJ doesn’t realize he has a friend or that he is a friend.   I wait for the day in hope.

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