There is nothing like a small town where everyone seems somehow connected. There is a certain pride of place, and the people of the town smile easily, wave readily and know the meaning of hospitality. The small town I live in is active in the arts and in the community. The beginning of every summer they have an art and music fair and come September, The Harvest Festival fills the main street with vendors, antique cars, music and more. There are so many positives to a small town, but the odd and strange live there as well.
Every year, our family makes it a point to go to the art fair and enjoy the local artisan’s wares, and a snow cone or two. My daughter entered the sidewalk chalk art competition and my son just enjoyed running free, and did I mention the snow cones? Anyway, we enjoyed the day, eating lunch with friends at the local pub while the kids enjoyed running in the sunshine. It was a perfect day, well almost.
My five-year-old son patiently waited his turn to have his face painted; the promise of a lollypop from the vendor had him sure to sit still. He walked away happy, a blonde version of Batman with a lollypop that he thoroughly enjoyed. We were listening to a local musician jam on the guitar, when the “face painter” sidled up to me.
She leaned in and told me that I “really, really ought to” have my child tested for Autism, she was studying to be a psychologist and she recognized that he worried three separate times over getting a lollypop, and that worry is one of the major signs of Autism. I didn’t know what to say. I was in shock, I was bewildered, and I felt the bottom dropping out of my heart. Had I missed something? To be sure I would know if my child needed attention? Before I could ask her anything more, she walked away and started packing up her kiosk.
My husband saw my face and asked me “What was that all about?” When I told him, it seemed as if a myriad of thoughts flashed across his face, along with disbelief and a good portion of outrage. I knew what he was feeling. I’ve been known to verbally eviscerate an individual when they’ve overstepped a line where my children are concerned, but this woman caught me completely off guard. I couldn’t think of a thing to say because I knew that SHE thought she was doing me a kindness. She had spent less than 15 minutes with my child and she diagnosed him as Autistic.
Being the worry wart that I am, I went home and Googled everything on Autism. The only benchmark/symptom my son had was worry…over a lollypop. That’s when I started to chuckle. What kid won’t worry the pants off a parent when it comes to candy? Think about the checkout line in the grocery store. I can’t even count the times that BOTH of my children have pleaded, as if their lives depended on it, over a candy bar or pack of gum. To top that off, how could the pediatrician that my son has been going to since birth have missed this diagnosis?
The following weekend, while getting my hair cut, I relayed the entire story to my hair dresser. About the time I finished the story, a little boy and his dad went to check out to pay for their haircuts. In quick succession the little boy asked, “Can I have a lollypop now Daddy? You said you’d let them give me one if I was good. I was good, wasn’t I Daddy? Can I have it now?” To which my hair dresser replied, “He must be autistic too.”
Every single child born is a gift, PERIOD. Those of us graced to be parents are just that, graced. As parents we worry over our children regardless of condition, disabilities or society’s varying degrees of “normal.” It would have done me no good to debate with the face painter, because a little knowledge is such a dangerous thing. There is an old saying by Syrus; “Many receive advice, few profit by it.” I say, beware of strangers giving advice.
How would you have handled the situation?
How would you feel if a stranger approached with an “out-of-the-blue” diagnosis regarding your child? Would you let it go? Would you pursue what the woman’s intentions were, or would you have just gone for another snow cone?