This week I read an amusing blog entry on The Stir entitled “10 Ways Anyone Can Tell You’re a Mom” [To access this article, click here.] in which the author gave examples such as wearing a Disney bandage or carrying extra Kleenexes. While moms of typical kids give off various signs that reveal their maternal nature, I suspect that parents of kids with autism can spot each other almost intuitively, even when we aren’t with our children. On Saturday, I was standing in the grocery checkout lane buying Alex’s specialty foods, including gluten-free pasta and Betty Crocker gluten-free cake mix, both of which he’s been eating in great quantities lately. The man behind me commented that he admired people who could stick to the gluten-free diet and commented that he had read that the gluten-free diet was helpful to children with autism. Moreover, he told me that his son has Asperger’s syndrome, an autism spectrum disorder. I then explained that my son has autism, and he has been gluten-free and dairy-free for several years. In the brief time that we waited in line, we shared information about our sons, bonded by this strange phenomenon of autism, and listened with empathy because both of us understood how autism has impacted our families’ lives.
With my recent grocery line autism parent experience and The Stir article in mind, I decided to share my own list: Ten Ways Anyone Can Tell You’re an Autism Mom. [For those who are not autism moms, I have provided explanations in brackets so that you, too, can be in the know about the world of raising a child with autism.]
10. You know every trick, gadget, book, and video on potty training a child because in the several years you spent training your child with autism, you tried every single one.
9. You can not only say and spell methylcobalamin, but you also what it is [methyl vitamin B-12], how it helps children with autism [repairs nerve damage and helps the body’s detoxification system], and can even give your child an injection of it on a regular basis.
8. When another parent begins talking about his or her child’s stims [self-stimulatory behaviors used for calming, such as rocking, hand flapping, or repeating words and phrases over and over], you nod your head because you have seen your child do the exact same thing.
7. You know what the GFCF [gluten-free and casein-free/dairy-free] diet is, can easily list foods that are acceptable on this restricted diet, and have learned to bake without wheat flour and milk.
6. You can name all of the characters in the Thomas the Tank Engine series from watching the show repeatedly with your child and/or watching him line up his own set of Thomas and friends trains for hours at a time.
5. You talk about Temple Grandin and Bernard Rimland [autism experts] as though they are close family friends. In many ways, they are.
4. You talk about the autism moms you met online as though they are close family friends. Without a doubt, they are.
3. Your house has at least three chewies made of thera-tubing [a rubber tube used like a teething toy to satisfy oral sensory needs], and although they are disgusting with drool on them, you know they’re an improvement from your child chewing on his/her clothes or anything else he/she can put in his/her mouth.
2. You have watched far too many episodes of Wheel of Fortune with your child, who can nearly always solve the puzzle way before you can.
1. You know the meanings of all the following acronyms: OT [occupational therapist], IEP [individualized education plan used for special education], ABA [applied behavioral analysis--a therapy program used with some children who have autism], SLP [speech and language pathologist], and ASD [autism spectrum disorder]. Moreover, you use these abbreviations on a regular basis with fellow autism moms who know exactly what you mean.
“I will comfort you there in Jerusalem as a mother comforts her child.” Isaiah 66:13