From the Outside Looking In

High school orientation was this week. Transitions arent' hard only for kids on the spectrum. Mom is suffering too. Oftentimes I think I've made peace with Carolyn's neurology. I tell people that I don't think she has a disability; she has a different set of abilities. At those moments I buy into the careful semantic distinctions. At those moments my pride in my daughter's talents, generosity and determination are genuine. I truly believe that her "way of being," is just as valuable and adaptive as anyone's. Society need only know her to respect and embrace her.

Then comes high school orientation. My perception of Carolyn is not that she is "differently abled." My perception is that I'm on the phone with the case manager on Sunday evening confirming our plans for the hand-off of my child on Monday morning. None of the other students need this one-to-one transfer. They gather in the lobby, nervously introduce themselves to nearby students or study their phones, and wait for instructions. My daughter moves from the side of one adult to the side of another.

By the time I collect Carolyn at noon, the other kids are coalescing into small clusters built around their orientation groups. Many of them text as they chatter. Carolyn stands alone and when she sees me announces, in an excruciatingly loud voice, "Mommy, I have to use the bathroom!" A few kids glance over.

The other kids disperse. Some leave in groups while others run to cars as they pull up to the curb. I am the only parent inside the high school. Carolyn comes out of the restroom and, not using her inside voice, declares her love for her cats. A few kids glance over.

These children are not used to my daughter. I can only imagine how the kids in her orientation group are responding to her tendency to blurt out off-topic pronouncements, usually about her cats' soft fur