That's pretty much a rhetorical question. A trick rhetorical question.
I've never really had a desire to be normal, and I think that's been key to my survival. There's probably very little in my life that would qualify as normal, so abnormal is my normal. However, it does make it easy to forget that other people aren't likely to relate to stories about fuzzy kielbasa, disappearing small appliances, or owning a bust that says "I heart nurses" when there are no nurses in the family, but all things found in the woods are valued by children. Even the woods are strange here.
My sense of normalcy being completely skewed, I didn't realize how strange I must have looked this morning, cheering and doing the happy dance. Come on, my kid said "Momo!" How can anyone resist running to the top of the mountain, chanting "Momo! Momo!" at a time like that?
I guess normal people don't find parroting the name of The Avatar's pet lemur a big deal. When you're worried about your 17 month old hovering over the line between "It's probably normal" and "You might wanna look into that," Momo becomes your new god. Even when you're not quite sure what you would even do with a normal kid.
This milestone celebration had me trying to find the simplest way to explain myself to M's gymnastics classmate's mother, who suddenly realized I was a bigger freak than I had let on over the past few weeks. I told her that C doesn't really talk, and that it's had me a bit concerned for the last few days. I've been especially frustrated b/c I feel that, of all people, I should have been able to immediately recognize any hints of developmental delays.
J was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome when he was about 5. All of the honorary degrees colleges hand out to celebrities, and nobody has mentioned granting me one for spending over 5 years researching autism spectrum disorders. The world is a messed up place.
Anyway, despite the inability to pinpoint a direct cause, ASDs are considered, at least in part, to be genetic. And it's 4 times more likely in boys than it is girls. The math comes out to about 1:97 boys before factoring in diagnosed family members. I don't remember exactly what that number becomes, and I failed calculus, but I know it's a relatively creepy one. I never really worried about H and M, and they've turned out to be freaks of a different kind. Having another boy has really pushed me into walking the line between making too many comparisons and being blase about the whole thing.
For 17+ months, I've stuck to simply checking off my mental list of milestones as C reached them. Eye contact, check. Babbles, check. Knows how to piss off his sisters, check. Walking seemed to take forever but, before I could get worried, check.
It isn't like I haven't *noticed that C doesn't really talk. I've just been taking more notice to things like his ability to hear (perfect, and as selective as his siblings') and understand. He can even follow directions when told to throw something away or find a particular book. In my mind, all was fine. Well, other than the horrible whining that comes from the frustration of his not being able to speak. ASD-wise, I haven't found reason to be concerned. Somehow, it never occurred to me to wonder about *non*-ASD delays.
So, I told this woman at gymnastics that I am a little concerned, since J (who was right there and has been for weeks) is on the autism spectrum and I wouldn't want to miss any possible delays, knowing how important (and having missed the boat once) early intervention is. That explanation seemed to make sense to me. I figured it would make sense to most people. And then she said this:
"Oh, but autism means kids can't interact with other people, and he (the baby) is so friendly!"
Now, I don't expect random people to be well-versed on ASDs. I've slowly come to terms with the fact that there actually *are* people out there who have no idea what autism is. But here's this woman, who has spent 4 hours with J. She's seen him in action. She's watched him play with his siblings. She's chuckled while I've given him signals to quit chewing her ear off before finally resorting to just telling him to shut up before somebody jumped out the window.
I'm not sure how that kind of comment should be taken. Am I supposed to consider it an attempt to educate me on what autism really means? Is it a round about way of telling me I'm lying about my child being on the spectrum?
I don't have to be normal to be able to chalk up the comment to a foot-in-mouth deal, similar the the trillions I've made myself. This just happens to be the strangest one I've been on the receiving end of. Sure, I've been asked stupid questions. I've just never run into anyone who has tried to tell me what's what. At least, not in the past 4.5 years.
C has a new word, and that's what is important today. Maybe he is perfectly normal. Maybe I'm going to have to start studying for and designing my own diploma in speech therapy. With Momo being said so spontaneously, I think I should start watching my mouth while driving. If I do wind up filling out evaluation forms, I'd hate to have to write "Ho bag" in his word bank. But you might hear me screaming it from the mountain top!