From the Mother of a Daughter with Autism
I have been worried about this day for a long time. I have watched the bagger at our local grocery store and complained to the store manager when the cashier barked at him to move faster. I’ve talked to the ticket-taker at our movie theater about her nail polish and waited as she told me about her little sister who polished them. As I left them I hoped everyone after me would do the same.
Today my daughter who has autism begins her first job experience. There is a good chance she will talk more than she works and forget instructions a second or so after they are given and I don’t even want to think about what will happen if the grapes in her lunch are smushed. She will have a job coach to help her along but nothing to guard her from impatience or critical eyes or long stares, no principal’s office to send the general public.
Last night she packed her lunch for far longer than it will take to eat it and worried over her “job shirt.” I stayed up late over-thinking and woke up early to continue more of the same. I have to hand her over to the world today and hope she finds kindness in return. I can’t create a 22 year-old sized bubble to put her in or follow behind her, giving “the look” to anyone who even thinks of rolling their eyes. I can only stay here and hope she gets back what she gives.
If you encounter her today, here is what I can promise: You can take too long in line and lose your checkbook and forget to brush your teeth and she will still smile, ask you about your day (possibly what you had for breakfast, lunch and dinner yesterday) and tell you about this week’s basketball practice. She might forget she's doing a job and keep right on talking or she might drop something and get very upset, more upset than another 22 year old would.
If you see her, please smile back when she smiles at you and give her an extra second to help with what you need. If she gets upset tell her it's okay, that you know she's working hard because she is. She's working harder than you could ever imagine just to be standing right there, out in the world. More than anything, please just be nice. Be nice.
She has a family at home rooting for her and hoping more than anything that the 22 years we've put into helping her find a place in the world will pay off. You see we've done what we can and now we need all of you to open your arms, welcome her into this new stage of her life and offer up a little bit of kindness while she tries hard to find happiness there.
Huge thanks to Jessica Watson of Four Plus an Angel for sharing her story.