It’s a place to go and we’ve met some nice parents. We’ve been very grateful.
She was asking if we could bring James on Saturday so they could take photos of him for their web page and brochure. It may have seemed harmless enough.
Most schools and SN sports classes ask us to complete a photo release form at registration, so over the years James like lots of other kids has appeared on websites before.But this time it felt different. That’s because when I look at James, he is different. He’ll be nine soon. He weighs 80 pounds. We wear the same shoe size.
He’s a real kid now – a kid who trusts me and relies on me in a way typical kids don’t rely on their parents.Despite his autism, I feel like I’m tricking him if I intentionally bring him in for a photo shoot. He’ll do as he’s told. He’ll climb the equipment and smile if asked. But he won’t understand why.
He doesn’t know he’s different and that this is a brochure for a program for kids who are different.I feel like he’s reaching an age where he should have a say as to whether he wants to be a poster child for autism.
By the same token, the program has given us a feeling of belonging and I want to give back.But I’m torn. Do I have to give back until he’s 18?
I’ll admit it also makes me a little sad because I didn’t think we’d have to make these decisions when James was this age.I thought we’d be done with autism and that James would be the poster child for therapy – the benefits of therapy and how it can change a child who is on the spectrum to just a quirky kid who can have relationships with other cool, quirky kids.
James hasn’t outgrown autism, but he’s outgrown being a child - and I’m thinking that includes being a poster child.So I decided that if autism didn’t go away maybe this request would go away if I just did nothing. I didn’t return her call and waited to see if she’d call again (not that I would have picked up if she did). When I see her, I’ll give an unconvincing excuse like we were away that week.
It’s hard to accept that autism isn’t going anywhere just like the endless decisions we as SN parents have to make aren’t going anywhere soon.Maybe it’s time to stop putting kids on posters as the face of autism and put the parents on instead. We can be poster parents for denial, fear, confusion, avoidance, exhaustion, and so much more.
I’ll come in for a photo shoot for that.