“You are looking at me,” Declan said to the girl in blue shorts as she waited for her turn ahead of Declan on the slide.
The girl appeared to be about 7 or 8 years old. She stopped for a moment and made a face.
“Yeah, cause you’re a dummy,” the girl retorted and put her hand on the top of the slide.
“You are still looking at me,” Declan returned matter-of-factly, with a look of confusion.
“Whatever,” and down the slide the girl went.
Once off the slide the girl in blue shorts collected her other girlfriends and down the hill they ran.
Declan continued to play until it was time to leave the playground. I let him run ahead of me, but sped up when I heard Declan talking to girls and the tone was becoming negative.
“Your shoes are stupid! Get them off my shirt!”
I caught up to see Declan stop and look down on the ground. His ankles turned to the outside as he realized what he was standing on. A couple of the girls had tripped in water, including the girl in blue shorts. A sweatshirt was laid across the walking path to dry.
Declan began to run to get off the shirt. The girl in blue shorts saw me and continued.
“And keep your stupid shoes off my shirt!”
“Hey, wait,” I intervened. I addressed the girl in blue shorts, but neither she nor the other girls would look at me.
“He is not trying to be mean. He has special needs. He is on the spectrum. No need to be mean to him.”
The girls did not acknowledge me and continued to dry themselves off.
Thirty minutes later as Declan and I waited for Catelyn’s sport practice to end, I saw the girl in blue shorts whispering to her mother and pointing at us. Although the mother seemed unaffected by her daughter’s words, I had a pretty good idea of what the girl was saying.
Explaining Autism: Meet Julia
I have had little success rate in trying to explain autism in the situations where the other party has been annoyed by Declan’s behavior, child or adult.
Rarely does the annoyed person want to ask questions, or say, “Oh, I didn’t know.”
And some ears are just shut.
I still try.
But it got me thinking. Could I try a different approach?
And as I pondered this question, another autism awareness outlet opened itself up.
Not only did the Power Rangers introduce the first superhero with autism, as I talked about here in this post.
But Sesame Street introduced their first character with autism, Julia.
I watched the clip below and was so thrilled to see this element of awareness. To bring this character to the TV for children to watch to become acquainted with autism and Julia, the friend that is still there waiting to play.
I love how Alan introduces Julia. I love how Julia repeats Alan and loves to play. I love how her friends have taken the time to understand their friend and work with Julia to include her in their play. And I love how Big Bird wants to be her friend too.
Until I can figure out how to start the conversation with kids, or other adults, who just aren’t ready to hear – I am glad there are now more outlets opening the door to autism awareness. I may not be the voice that will open all ears to autism. But those girls may have loved Sesame Street as kids. And although they missed this message a whole new wave of Sesame Street watchers are out there, learning about autism.
And I am so excited to see autism awareness unravel in other media. Who is going to be next? And who is going to benefit from message?
I can’t wait to find out.
Check out the Sesame Street clip “Meet Julia” found here. Definitely worth the watch!