Driving on the highway, my daughter and I pass by a sign for the next exit. At the same time, my GPS speaks out loud and indicates, “take the next exit ‘Nevele’ in 800m”, precisely the same as what the sign said. My daughter noticed: “I can become that.” What? “Well, the person who reads that out loud, I can do that.”
Last week, I was ironing while listening to the article by Ludmila about autism at work. I used an online tool to read the text aloud to hear it. In the middle of my artificial podcast, my 8-year-old daughter storms into the room. She runs into my bed and puts her head in my pillow. “How can I deal with this world? Or should it deal with me?!”… After venting her frustrations briefly, she notices the female voice reading the text about autism at work. “What are you listening to? I already heard you talking about autism; what is it, and do I have it?”. This struck me; I was not expecting this conversation yet. Our psychiatrist told us to wait with psycho-education until she was somewhere between 8 and 12 years old. The decision tree in my head whether or not to tell her about it while she was upset was running fast and ended up with: “Tell her.”
And so I told her, and realized how difficult to describe autism spectrum disorder (ASD), but also how quickly she calmed down. “Am I the only one who has it? Do you have it?…” and “… Will I be able to work like everybody else?”. Her questions waved fluently, yet not upset or angry, more at ease and in peace with what I was telling her. “You are gifted with the ability to learn very quickly, this does not mean that things will not be difficult or hard or take lots of energy, but you already show to be able to cope with some challenges that are tied to your ASD-‘limitations’. She also has ASD opportunities, by the way.
She took my computer and looked for autism and disadvantages on youtube. She found a video clip of a young woman talking about the disadvantages of ASD; fortunately, the following video was about advantages. Although her brain was working slow and was attentive at the time, I noticed that it triggered so much. But mainly: she started to understand herself. That evening, she came down – leaving her bed – to talk about it some more. By coincidence, there was an interview/documentary on television about adults with ASD. A woman told about how lonely she felt. And my daughter echoed that. It broke my heart, but at the same time, these initiatives warm my heart; awareness about ASD is growing, not only for children but also for grown-ups. We are thankful for that.