“The Bird That was Different – and the unfortunate truth”
Many years ago….I was busy about the house when I heard a knock at the door. Upon answering the door, I was quite surprised to see a group of neighborhood boys asking if Cameron could come out and play. That almost never happened and so I was a little excited for my little guy to be invited to join the group. As he left, my heart was soaring knowing that he was out having fun, just being a little boy. That was such a rare occasion. After a time, I heard him come in the back door and I went to greet him. I saw his face and paused, he was not OK. His little body was shaking, his eyes were big, and he was breathing quickly. I immediately ran to him and asked what was wrong. Through quickened breaths, he proceeded to tell me that the boys had invited him to play hide and seek. They all went out in the woods (a small forest just behind our house) and told Cameron it was his turn to count. He covered his eyes and began to count. He could hear the boys laughing and one boy said, “I wonder how long it will take him”. Then they left.
The boys didn’t go and hide…. they left. They went home leaving him counting in the woods. At first, he said that he tried to find their hiding spots. When he didn’t find anyone, he called out hoping that one of the boys would show themselves. After a while, he realized that he was very much alone in an unfamiliar part of the woods. He was left terrified that he would never find his home again!! He was devastated and obviously shaken up by the ordeal. My mommy heart broke right there!!! He looked at me with tears in his eyes and asked me why?? I didn’t have an answer for him. He then told me some very telling words that I will never forget… He said, “Mom, it’s like the world is full of birds and they are all the same, but me.”
What’s the unfortunate truth…It’s true. The world is full of birds and they are different. They talk a different language, see different colors, hear different sounds, and fly different patterns. It can be so confusing and frustrating to try and interpret the world when you are looking through the eyes of an autistic child. This is exactly why behavior outbursts are so common. It just doesn’t make sense! I remember asking him around this time, to draw me pictures of himself when he was sad, happy, mad etc. He couldn’t do it telling me, “mom, they all look the same.” Thankfully, this experience was not his norm. I found that generally it was the kids who were more understanding and willing to forgive than the adults. Adults do need to be aware though that this is not an uncommon experience.
There are bullies out there and kids on the spectrum are very trusting and miss the cues which makes them prime targets. They don’t understand being made fun of and can be easily coerced into doing things with their “friends”. I have been assured, at school, that this wasn’t happening to my son because the school had a no tolerance policy and that the kids all knew better. Guess what… It still happens!! I can’t totally blame the school because kids are sneaky and know how to avoid being caught when they really want to. So, watch out for these kids! Compassion will go a long way in helping a family on this journey. I will be forever grateful to those who took the time to show compassion towards me and my son!!