By Shanell Mouland, blogger at GoTeamKate.com
If our Kate was to sit quietly beside me on any given day you might never know she was different. Her eyes are impossibly blue and her blonde hair is cut just above her chin with bangs framing her angelic face. She is tall for her age; almost four. For all intents and purposes she could, potentially, appear ‘normal’ if there is such a thing.
If you look closer you will see she that her blonde hair is wild about her head for lack of brushing, because brushing hurts and she wears a well-worn bright red Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles t-shirt, because change is hard. In her mouth is a chewy tube that helps her regulate a need to chew and in her tiny hand is Master Splinter, the Sensei of the aforementioned turtles.
She is likely up on her toes, bouncing or spinning. If she is happy her arms are flapping. She is usually happy. The idea of her sitting quietly is almost humorous to us now.
She may be repeating a comforting phrase. She has acquired much language even if she cannot always use it properly.
“Wet’s do dis.” (Let’s do this) A phrase she’s pulled from her turtle show, no doubt.
Kate has autism and she’ll be the best part of your day.
Grace, our eldest daughter (5) and Kate’s best friend will often have one hand at the ready, for when Kate sees fit to take off. She is young and quick and can often capture her sister before me. You’ll see this scenario play out whenever we are in public. I’ve often said the four words Grace utters most in public are: “Mama, she’s getting away!”
My husband and I make every effort to do things as a family. If we feel Kate will be overwhelmed we obviously give her a pass and she can spend some down time with her grandparents, however, if we feel Kate will enjoy any given excursion, look out, because she is coming.
Our family loves a certain Japanese restaurant in our city. Do I call ahead and warn them we are coming? No. Do I announce on social media that we will be there in case someone was planning a quiet dinner? No. We attend the restaurant with our family just like you would.
Yes, Kate will most likely not sit in her seat. She will probably visit most tables in the restaurant anxious to show off her turtle figure. She will explore the textures of the seats and the tablecloths and the curtains. She will protest loudly when she is not allowed in the kitchen. She will make sure each patron eating dinner that evening is fully aware of her presence. She will call the women, Mama and the men, Daddy and she will hug more than a few.
In our experience, most people will smile broadly and engage our little social butterfly. Some will shoot us that ‘how dare you bring a child to a restaurant like this’ look and some will stare at us with pity.
As we enjoy our Sushi and Tempura and some great conversation with the folks at table five about autism and our family, the woman at table nine purses her lips and sips her wine annoyed that mid-miso soup she was privy to Kate yelling to the chef clear from our table: “Dat your hat, daddy? I have dat hat?” Her husband seems oblivious to her annoyance and taps on his phone while murdering his teriyaki.
Table five dissolves into laughter at Kate’s cute request for the chef’s hat. They order more wine and ask Kate which turtle is her favorite.
Table nine gets up and leaves. They pay their check with a disapproving glance from the Mrs. towards us.
Honestly, who brings someone like that woman out to a public restaurant where a family is trying to enjoy a meal, anyway?
And then I hear: “Mama, she’s getting away!”
Shanell Mouland is a mother, teacher and writer from New Brunswick, Canada. When she isn’t advocating for the rights of individuals with autism she is writing a children’s book called: Sunny and Sinclair. She is actively seeking a publisher because the three full time jobs mentioned earlier take a lot of time away from important things like coffee drinking and relaxing. She can be reached through her website: goteamkate.com.