The big thing that I was thinking about is how it's no longer possible in any way to pretend in my head that people think Janey is "normal". She's at least average sized for her age, maybe a little tall, but most of the time at the store, she was making her "AHHHHHHhhhhh" sound. It's a very obviously autistic or otherwise special needs type sound. And it struck me that I wasn't much bothered by that. People did look at her, but I think they looked thinking "there's a kid with special needs shopping" and not "what the heck is wrong with that kid?" and maybe that's because she's older and it's more obvious, or maybe it's a change in my perspective. Maybe I'm getting used to people looking at her and at me.
I was also reflecting on how I actually enjoyed her at the store, the unique way she has of looking at life. It will seem she is noticing nothing around her, but when she gets to an area where there is something she wants, she has laser sight. We got near the milk section, and she ran over to the individual strawberry milk bottles. I was planning on getting a big strawberry milk, but the thrilled look on her face and the excitement she had in putting the little ones in the cart overrode that. It's like that's a part of the store that makes sense to her---like it's all a big whirl of colors and shapes and then---wow! Her favorite thing, sitting right there on the shelf!
The deli was empty, so we got a little deli meat and cheese. The nice deli woman started to ask Janey about school starting soon, but I think she caught on quickly that Janey wasn't going to answer. She was so sweet with Janey---asking me if she would like a piece of cheese or roast beef. Janey isn't into swiss cheese or roast beef, so the lady asked if there was something she would like. I said a piece of salami, if she had one already cut up, but she insisted on cutting a new piece for Janey. I tried to get Janey to say thank you, but she was too busy eating. The woman looked so happy just to have pleased her. Thank you, Shaws deli woman! People like you are wonderful.
Tony takes Janey to that Shaws a lot, and the people there are gradually starting to know her. I'm realizing that is a very, very good thing when it comes to autism. It's like our favorite CVS I take her to a lot. It's making me think about the importance of local stores, of community. I am not a hugely community-oriented person, but I am seeing more and more the truth of that old "It takes a village" saying. The more people that know Janey, that know what she is like and accept her for it, the better.
I left the Shaws feeling very good about life. Some days, I actually feel like I am going to make this whole autism bit work.