"JD, you have something called autism."
Whew, I said it. I did it.
Today was the day we told JD that he is on the autism spectrum.
I should rewind a bit and explain why today. Jason and I have been talking about it a lot lately, about telling JD. He's seven years old and lately when he gets in trouble, he says he has "something wrong with his brain" or "his brain is broken" - I can see the frustration and confusion on his face as he struggles to understand why he does what he does. We struggled with what to say, how to do it, and if he'd even understand. But I knew it was coming.
This afternoon I took the kids to the bounce house place to burn off some energy and while I was taking Kyle, my youngest, to the bathroom, JD bit a boy (and I mean like a full-on Jaws-sized bite). In full-blown tantrum - crying, screaming, throwing things - I managed to get JD to apologize to the boy and his mother, and get the heck out of dodge. 15 minutes of bouncing and $20 later, I was one ticked mom. On the way home I called Jason and said - this is it. We have to tell him.
We got home and took JD into his room and told him we needed to have a talk. I just looked at him and said, "JD, you know when you get upset and you can't control your feelings and you get really, really mad? Well, that's because you have something called autism."
Jason and I tried our best to explain to him what autism is but it's not the easiest concept to walk through with a child. We told him that his brain works differently and that's why he has a hard time controlling his emotions or understanding how to play with friends. Amazingly enough he seemed to understand but it was heart wrenching to see him go through three distinct emotions - confusion, sadness and then relief.
He was confused at first, but then seemed to grasp the concept, then sad when he realized he was different. Then he seemed to have this sense of relief that there was a reason he has a hard time with things. I can't really explain it, but it was just this weight had been taken off his shoulders. I explained to him that he isn't broken, or "evil" as he sometimes says, but that he has autism and we love him just the way he is.
The whole conversation probably lasted ten minutes and when we were done, JD went and told Kyle, "Kyle, I have something called autism and sometimes it makes me really, really mad." It was cute. He got it.
I'm sure we'll have to keep having the conversation, but at least it's a start. The cat is officially out of the bag and I have to say it's a relief.