Overall, it went well. She enjoyed the ride, until the end (she seems to have a 90 minute per day limit on car rides---as soon as you pass that, she freaks out), she loved walking around the campus and she especially seemed to like the big room in the admissions office where we waited for William to be ready to go home. It was a spacious room, with big chairs and with lots of windows, and for a long time, she just sat there in delight. She was smiling her huge smile, and to my eyes, not being very noticable. But still, we got stares. I tried to tell myself that is was because she was 8, at a college, and beautiful. But there were other young kids there, and they were not getting stares. No, it was because at this point, she just looks different. She doesn't act as you expect a child her age to act, even when she is not making a sound. And then, occasionally, she makes her happy sound---the long "AHHHHHH" sound. We barely notice that sound, but other people do. I sat there trying to feel like an anthropologist, just observing the stares. They weren't especially friendly stares. They were pretty confused looking, or at times, a little annoyed. This was a big day for a lot of these parents---their special high school seniors going to a big college event. It was not a place they expected to see a little autistic girl. It wasn't like there was any speech or event she was interrupting---it was just a waiting room. But still, she wasn't part of their expected background. At one point, she got very excited and jumped up and ran toward the door. We did our usual thing---the very firmly and loudly spoken "STOP!" and ran after her. That got the whole room looking.
So---what is the take-home message here? I don't know. I'm not going to keep Janey out of the public eye. This was not a case where she was truly interfering with or disturbing anyone. And my attitude I should have is---who cares? Let them stare! And I am usually fairly okay with that. But somehow it bothered me more yesterday. It felt like I couldn't do a normal rite of passage---visit a college my son was interested in. Of course those starers were not stopping me, but their looks said a lot. One woman especially, at the desk, just did not take her eyes off Janey. At one point, she was going around the room talking to parents, and giving them little bracelet flash drives. She avoided us. She walked right past us. That got my dander up a little. Finally, I'd had enough of being in there, and took Janey to the car. She was at the door. I got passive-aggressive and said "What are those?" as she was holding a bunch of the bracelets. She said "They are flash drives. For ADMITTED STUDENTS" Well, she'd been giving them to a lot of parents. But I guess she assumed if we had a child like Janey, we certainly wouldn't have any child up for their big special scholarship. Which we do. Which I wanted to point out to her, but I didn't.
I guess I want to say---we are out there---those families with a special needs child. We are everywhere. Get used to us. We aren't trying to interfere with your lives. We are exquisitely sensitive to any situation where we might be disturbing you. But you might still have to see us---in waiting rooms, in stores, at parks. We aren't going to hide our kids away. We don't bite. Give us a friendly smile. Talk to us. You might find out our kids are pretty darn interesting and cool people.
Here's a picture of Janey enjoying the campus, just because..;.