I was recently asked by a blogger friend what I thought about the fact that she hadn't told some people about her child's autism. She called me her "virtual autism mentor" so my first reaction was to be very afraid for her. My next reaction was to judge her swiftly and harshly. Not.
Audrey is not so high-functioning that she could pass for typical. Maybe she could when she was younger and it wasn't unusual that she wasn't conversant and was obsessed with the Wiggles and Baby Einstein. But now at 6 1/2, you pretty much know something is up if you spend more than 5 minutes with her. Still there are some people that don't know or that I haven't explicitly told.
I think in each circumstance, the important thing is the "why?" of it. If there are people in your life that you have not told about your child's autism, why haven't you? Because you're private? Because you're not in close contact and you haven't told them about your child's autism in the same way that you haven't told them a great many other things about your life and your family? Reasonable enough. But I always want to do a gut check to make sure there aren't any more nefarious reasons.
There is a faction on my mother's side of the family that she has elected not to tell. I see these people only rarely at events such as wakes and funerals that I wouldn't bring Audrey to anyway.
In this case, I believe that there is some old-school shame on my mother's part. But that's for her to deal with. I don't see these people so it's not like I'm the one that's hiding it. If that's the way that she wants to handle it, that's her prerogative. In her defense, these people are total pinheads and wouldn't know what the fuck she was talking about if she did tell them.
Audrey was 3 when we moved into this house, and still at the could-possibly-pass-for-typical stage. Now that she's 6 1/2, her disability is more obvious. There is one next-door neighbor that I don't like very much, so she was someone that I very pointedly never told. But over the years, others have figured it out and I was pretty sure that she knew as well. I don't hang around outside my house very much, unlike her who is pretty much constantly ass-up in her flowerbed. One day she caught me as I was putting the trash out and started making small talk. And then this, "So Audrey looks like she's doing so well! She's talking so much and riding her bike..." I always find it bizarre when people casually acknowledge something to you that you've never acknowledged to them. It felt like she was doing that leading-on move and trying to get me to confess something. Like "Boy, the grass is sure growing in nicely over that coffin-sized hole you dug in the backyard...." or "Do you guys find that the grow lights for the weed garden in your basement raises your electricity bill?" I reacted the way I always react to anything she says to me: I grunted and continued on my way.
If you've got 750 of them (I'm looking at you Dani G), you can't possibly be close personal friends with all of them. There are lots of long-lost grade school, high school, and college friends out there, and if you are FB friends with someone whom you used to feel competitive with back in the day there is a temptation to make them think that your life has turned out just perfectly. For some, Facebook is the 365-day-a-year Christmas form letter, with photos of their perfect family and the sharing of only the good stuff. Or "bad" stuff that is really good like "Can you believe that Jack broke his leg in seven places while skiing the black diamond trails during our family vacation in Vail to rescue us from our burning chalet while catching the winning touchdown in his pickup game against the Kennedys?"
This one doesn't apply to me because I don't have a lot of Facebook friends and I was copping to Audrey's autism and linking to this blog long before any long lost acquaintances friended me there. But I do know people that consciously avoid any reference to their child's autism on Facebook. I had one friend like this and I never said anything to her about it. Then one day I saw her link to her donation page for an autism walk, and it felt like she had just burst out the closet swinging her feather boa and singing show tunes. OK, I'm mixing my metaphors now.
What about you? Is there anyone in your life that doesn't know about your child's autism?