The bleachers were full of eager parents ready to watch their children perform in the annual “Foreign Language Festival” at the local junior high school. Many held cameras as they searched the sea of students for their child, hoping to wave to them discreetly so their friends wouldn’t see. Parents of junior high school kids know that anything they say or do will humiliate their child. But in our family, it’s not mom and dad our older two children are afraid will do something embarrassing, it’s their little brother, Bennett, and he never lets them down.
We filed into the packed gymnasium and headed to the top of the bleachers and found a seat behind a lady wearing a bright green velour jacket. Bennett was not happy. He stomped loudly on the bleachers, bringing his Converse-clad feet down hard enough for the stomp to be heard among the high pitched din. He was upset because he didn’t get to go with “the boys.” Bennett’s older brother and his friend were in the junior high school program and Bennett, being three years younger was not. Bennett stomped on the bleachers even after he had sat down to make sure I understood that he was upset.
“Twinkle, Twinkle stupid little star…” Bennett began to sing.
It was the first time I had heard the version but it was done in the same tune of his attitude. The lady in the green velour jacket turned around, glanced at Bennett and then at his yellow shirt and then turned back around unperturbed.
The program began with a Spanish Song from Mrs. Krebs ninth grade students. They sang a song about a frog a fly and a spider and a young girl in a green hat with wiggly eyeballs danced across the gym floor keeping Bennett entertained and even brought a small smile to his face.
The seventh graders began their performance and Bennett decided it was time to crawl under the bleachers and beneath my legs. The song was too loud for his ears so he stayed under my legs until the voices stopped singing.
When the 8th graders came to center stage, Bennett was done. He walked quickly down the row where we were seated on the bleachers and stepped on toes, knocked knees and mowed his way through about six people yelling, “Move it. Move it. Move it,” as he barreled his way through the crowed.
People looked up at him in shock and annoyance until they looked a little closer at his bold yellow shirt that could not be ignored. In huge black print, there was a caution sign on the front of his shirt and printed boldly below it read, “Caution, child with autism, expect the unexpected.”
I actually saw people smile and relax as they read his shirt and they let my boy pass without another word.
My son’s t-shirt provided a quick lesson in autism and I didn’t have to say a word. Isn’t silence golden….I mean yellow.