Everyday Autism Awareness: A Momma’s Thank You

She smiled at me, when I opened the door, and immediately said, “I’ll start making it while you order and pay.”

So, they know me at Jamba Juice these days. They know me because the only way I can get my son to take his new medicine, all 20mL’s of it, is to mix it into a Strawberry Surf Rider.

They know me because sugar is a problem for a child with Lupus related arthritis. When I asked, desperate for someone to help me solve this urgent, wake up every single day and wonder how we are going to get a child with HF autism (and all the sensory issues associated with it) to take medicine that tastes like medicine and gags him and makes him lock himself in his room, the gal at Jamba Juice explained how I could order less sherbet and add more fresh fruit to his smoothies instead.

They know me because I am there almost every day.

And every day, they smile. Every day the staff, all bubbly and young, helps make my day just a little bit easier.

Thank you so much, all you sweet, fun, twenty-somethings at Jamba Juice.

There are so many people, actual strangers, that make my life better every single day, without ever really understanding the impact.

Take the gorgeous gals who work at the Sport Clips. They know my son has HF autism. They have witnessed a few pretty serious meltdowns over not wanting to get his hair cut. Still, they smile every time we come in. They chat with him about his hair and try to encourage him to get it cut. Sometimes, we all mentally high five each other when he agrees. Most of the time, he refuses, and they offer him the “All-Star” treatment instead.

The “All-Star” is simply a shampoo, a heated towel facial, and a neck/shoulder massage in the chair.

They know he will likely have greasy hair, I am ashamed to say. He can rarely stand the water beating down on his head long enough to really wash out the shampoo. He’s twelve now, I want to explain. He expects privacy. He has to learn how to accomplish basic hygiene on his own. I can’t just do it for him anymore. But I say nothing, holding my breath and hoping they understand.

They do.

They know he will be tense, because someone touching him is not always his favorite thing. But sweetly, gently, they encourage him to just enjoy it. They teach him that it can be relaxing to come to the hair place.

And when we leave, my son all fresh and smelling manly, I can breathe just a little. It might be difficult, but he is doing it. He is learning.

Thank you so much.

There are so many people, actual strangers, that make my life better every single day, without ever really understanding the impact.

I have written a letter to Jet Blue before, describing the amazing experience I had flying with my son. Every single person we encountered made it so much better for us. I had to thank them.

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But my son is older now. He weighs more than I do. He is stronger and quite frankly, can do more damage.

Last month, we showed up for our Jet Blue flight and my son, suddenly and without warning, made it very clear that we would not be boarding the plane. As he hit his head on the wall next to the gate, clawed at my arms, and sobbed, the gate agents were amazing. They tried to help, to give us options, all the while staying on the task of safely boarding the 100 other people flying out of Long Beach that day.  One kind agent even offered to get the captain off the plane and into the boarding area, to try to help encourage my guy to board.

We didn’t make it. My son just couldn’t put one foot in front of the other and get on that plane. I watched the door close, and just felt defeated.

Then, I realized we had checked our bag. “I am going to run out and see if I can find it,” the agent I now knew as Sandy said. She came back, so very apologetic when she realized the bag was going to have to fly to Seattle without us.

We will put notes in the system and just fly it back. No problem at all,” she said as my son and I started to calm down, stop shaking, and catch our breath.

Our luggage came back to us as promised the next day.

Even more than that, Sandy called a few days later. She said she had been thinking about us and just wanted to make sure we got our bag and that everything had worked out.

I cried.

Because sometimes, this autism thing is really isolating. Because sometimes, I am tempted to believe that I am alone. Because sometimes, I think it will never get better – that it is just.too.difficult.

And then I go to get a smoothie, or take my son for a hair cut, or leave the airport two hours after arriving without ever stepping foot on a plane and I realize…

There are so many people, actual strangers, that make my life better every single day, without ever really understanding the impact.

I can’t imagine a better way to increase autism awareness. Because fundraisers, ad campaigns, and social media blitzes cannot possibly compete with the real life impact of one life touching another.

Just by showing up to work, smiling, and not being afraid to offer help, these sweet employees have served my family in a way that is meaningful and more significant than they will ever know.

And I am so very grateful.


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I am writing this as a thankful momma. I have in no way received any sort of compensation or consideration because of this post. I just think we have to acknowledge the good when it happens, so that it can happen more.
Love, Shawna

9 thoughts on “Everyday Autism Awareness: A Momma’s Thank You

  1. You know that I admire you (and every parent or anyone different). As you may recall, I have Fibromyalgia. So I can identify with some of your son’s pain, sensory issues. I can appreciate that we are very different but it does mean the world when someone UNDERSTANDS and VALIDATES you and your situation. I am sure you have had your share of just make him do xyz….as I have had just get over the pain, fatigue, etc. WE CAN’T, we don’t want to be different or difficult. We we do anything to be “normal” (what ever that means!”) I applaud you surrounding yourself and your son’s world with people who don’t judge. Sending love to all!
    Sue

    1. I hope that the more we share these types of interactions, the more people will feel comfortable just engaging and helping. It makes a huge difference!
      Thanks Cait!
      Love,
      Shawna

  2. I just want to thank you for everything you do. I listened to the Dad podcast this week, and we go through so many of the same things! I have a son (13) who has HF autism and spd. It colors our whole world. Even close family can’t understand. It helps just to hear your thoughts and issues. I’m sorry you go through these things, but know you are not alone!!

  3. Hi,

    I write with some concern about language that I believe matters, aware that you are doing the best you are currently capable of to support your child.

    I’m an Autistic adult, and although I won’t reveal my mom’s neurotype, I haven’t yet begun dialogue with “autism mammas.” Would you call an Autistic mom of an Autistic child an autism autism momma?

    Have you heard that Autistic adults hate functioning labels? Amy Sequenza has some great writing on that topic. Also, please check out the Autistic Self Advocacy Network.

    best,
    Bob

    1. Thank you for taking the time to comment, Bob. I am genuinely grateful for the chance to learn and to explain a bit more. I too, believe language really does matter. As such, I did go ahead and change the title to address your concern.
      Please also allow me to say that I write here for momma’s who are really having a hard time with how to best balance the needs of their children (sometimes on the spectrum and sometimes not) with what they thought their life would look like. It has very little to do with our children, in a weird way, and more to do with the experience of being a momma of a child on the spectrum.
      I do not have autism. I am trying every single day to understand it better – and I mess that up, a lot. But I do not think of autism as the only thing that defines my child, nor do I consider it a bad thing to be an “autism momma” and often use it in the context of communicating with other momma’s raising kids on the spectrum. In fact, in several posts, I have talked about the gift that autism has been in our son’s life and in the life of our family. It is not bad – but it is different from my very neuro-typical perspective. Being honest about this difference is one of the basic tenets of this blog. I hope that is not offensive.
      I think in order to promote neuro-diversity, we need to support families better, especially post diagnosis, to help them not feel like it is all or nothing, good or bad, us vs. them.
      My last comment is this – my son has expressed that he grateful for this “label”. We struggled for a long time without it. Now, he has friends and help and grace where in the past, there has only been judgement and expectations and exclusion. He is not ashamed of it, nor does he consider it the only thing interesting about him.
      Again, I want to thank you for taking the time to engage. I promise to look into the resources you recommended. Please know, it is never my heart to offend. Only to learn more and understand my son. Thank you for helping me do that.
      Shawna

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