When They Realize He’s Different

My son, Jesse, who has autism, and my typical nephew are both in first grade at the same school. They have a couple of classes together and lunch at the same time. Yesterday, my nephew told me that he tried to sing Jingle Bells during lunch, but Jesse wouldn’t let him.

As soon as my nephew told me, I knew what had happened. Jesse doesn’t always like it when others sing, and he wants to be the only one singing at times. Other times, I think it just bothers him. He usually shouts “stop singing” at us, especially his little sister. We’re constantly working on it by reminding him that there are nicer ways to ask, or if he can take a break from that situation.

I apologized to my nephew and talked to Jesse about it with him and then later just with J before bed. But lying in bed last night, I felt down, imagining the situation. I saw a group of kids sitting at the lunch table, my nephew singing the song, and Jesse abruptly shouting at him to stop repeatedly.

Although I don’t get to see Jesse in many social situations with kids his age, I’ve seen him with his cousins numerous times. I love them all so much, but I have seen that moment in all their faces – the moment they realize Jesse is different, the confusion of why he is doing what he is. It’s usually followed by a question like “Why is he doing that?” Or “Why is he like that?” It breaks my heart every time because once it happens, the relationship changes.

Of course, it’s sweet when they ask questions, and it’s a good opportunity to educate them. My nephew is around Jesse the most and just knows he is just who he is. But when I imagine this lunchroom moment, I can see that look on many children’s faces – my son’s peers, my nephew’s peers. They might give Jess a dirty look because he sounds rude, they might  giggle or laugh at him, or call him weird. I fear this will change the sweet cousins’ relationship.

I hope my nephew can explain to the other kids about autism and help my sweet boy realize he’s hurting feelings. However, that’s a lot to put on a six-year-old, and he was probably embarrassed. It’s hard, and it hurts my heart as a mom.

Jesse is turning eight soon, and kids are starting to notice the differences. I see so much beauty in the differences, but I don’t know if they will take the time to see it too. I just hope they are kind to him.


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