Today the boys and I were waiting in line to check-out at the grocery store. In front of us stood a Mom with her little boy. The boy turned to me and said, "Hi, What's your name? Look at what we're getting!" while physically turning his Mom so I could see the haunted house cookie kit she had in her hands. I told him my name and shared his enthusiasm for his baking project. He continued to have a (kinda one-sided) conversation with me and his Mom just looked at me with this grateful expression on her face.
I, of course, knew immediately he was on the spectrum. I mean, rubbing his cheek against my bare arm was a pretty big hint. But, what do you say at that moment to the mom? I felt like just blurting out, "Brian's autistic too!" And even though I was 99.9% sure this little boy, Johnny, was autistic, I couldn't bare the shame I would feel if I was wrong.
So we continued on in this way for a good seven minutes (someone ahead of us was having a struggle I think) and we were finally able to start loading our groceries on the conveyor belt. She saw our Udi's pizza crusts and said, "Oh! You do the gluten-free diet?? We were going to try that but I don't feel his autism is that bad." There she said it. And I have a feeling she was struggling the whole time with asking me about Brian as well. So then we started sharing all kinds of stories.
Normally, I'm a pretty shy person. I have a hard time opening up to people, especially strangers. But that's what belonging to the Autism Community does to you. You can instantly open up and have long conversations with complete strangers- because they don't feel like strangers to you. They may actually understand you more than people who have known you for some time.
I suppose, this is one gift that has come with Brian's diagnosis- meeting all these wonderful people and knowing I have so many supports when needed. It sucks to have to join this community, obviously, but it's a safe, kind place to be.