Peter never played with toys when he was younger. So from the time he was around three, he played with empty milk crates, cardboard boxes, old towels, 2x4s, traffic cones, different tools, and every other odd and end that he could scrounge up from the garage. Collective things that he called his work site. Each thing was special to him and he could tell if something was missing. He’d cart everything with his two wagons from our garage to the fork in the gravel driveway that we shared with our neighbors. He did the same thing day after day, setting up his work site right after preschool and first thing in the morning on weekends. He’d play from sunrise to sunset, and sometimes beyond.
And when it came to Peter’s work site, he complained not to me but to his mother-in-law, a.k.a. our landlady. Given that situation, and the imbalance of power, there wasn’t much else I could do but give in to the request. So from then on, I moved Peter’s stuff to our front patio at night, cursing our neighbor and wishing I could tell him where to get off for being unnecessarily difficult and complicating a life that was already hard enough. For making an additional hardship that only an autism parent would understand. Peter eventually gave up his work site. I never thought I’d say this, but I kind of miss it. Kind of. Oh, and those neighbors have since moved.
Autism awareness shouldn’t start and stop in April, especially when 1 in 68 children are being diagnosed. If that doesn’t sound the alarm in every expectant parent, it should. For me, autism wasn’t even something on my radar when I had Peter in 2006. I try and do my part to spread the word each day. I have a blue Autism Speaks puzzle piece lapel pin on my purse. And when people ask about it, I share what autism is and that I have a son with it. It’s like my own conversation piece. I know there will still be people who just don’t get it. People who think it’s lack of discipline and bad parenting. Those same people who probably still use the word retard without thinking twice. But for just one person to get it, that’s progress.