A Note to the Stranger Who Understood My Son
To the mysterious stranger at the arcade:
I saw you watching my son today.
You didn’t see me watching you but I was. I saw you look at him as he covered his ears and stomped his foot and growled. I wondered if you knew he wasn’t being bad, that he was just overwhelmed. It was loud and crowded and there were scores of screaming kids. And today there was someone playing “his” race car game, which meant he had to wait. I wondered if you thought it seemed like torture for him. It was. But the arcade is one of his favorite places to go when we’re on vacation so here we are again. For the second time today.
As you walked toward me I wondered if you were going to be one of “those” people. The ones who feel the need to tell me that they think he has an ear infection because he’s covering his ears or the ones who “politely” tell me that he has a lot of energy. I hoped you weren’t going to talk to me at all. But you did.
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You approached me with a piece of paper and asked me if you could give him your arcade tickets—all 1,400 of them! I was taken aback for a moment but then I said yes. You were patient while I tried to get my son’s attention. When he resisted because the waiting was getting him more upset, you stood there with a warm smile. When I tried to explain to him that you had tickets for him, you weren’t offended that he didn’t care. You didn’t mind that his eye contact was brief and his thank you was forced. It didn’t even phase you that my attention to you was limited as I watched to make sure my not-so-patiently waiting boy didn’t bolt out of frustration. You got that all he wanted was “his” game and all I wanted was to get him through waiting for it.
As you turned to leave and I thanked you again you said, “My grandson has autism. I recognized it in him right away.” And with that statement, I stopped wondering.
Joanne Scaturo is a single mother of an 11-year-old son with autism (who is her entire world). She is also a police lieutenant for the Roselle, NJ Police Department and has worked there for more than 25 years. When Joanne can find free time she enjoys painting, baking, and community projects.
This article was featured in Issue 80 – Conquering Challenges With ASD