We're all in this together, as members of the autism community

"I realized in a very tangible way, that we, none of us are alone, we must reach to each other and not be afraid to share a smile. And most importantly, to always remember COVID or not that we are indeed in this together."

By Michelle Sinigallia | June 24, 2021

This guest blog is by Michelle Sinigallia. Michelle is a busy mom of two boys living in New York City. She is a business owner, video producer and blogger. Her favorite role is being an advocate for  Dashiell, her 11 year old nonverbal autistic son.

A young boy in a  bright yellow shirt looks out in the distance in his mother's arms, as the mother in glasses and a polka dot shirt looks at him

"We're all in this together."

This phrase has been one of the uplifting and unifying phrases of 2020. With the pandemic raging around us it has been like a warm blanket of solidarity, giving us comfort and a sense of belonging. This phrase occurred to me the other day when, by chance, I met a mom with a son whose ASD profile was very similar to that of my 10 year son.

Despite the prevalence of ASD in the United States (1 in 54 kids), I find it very rare to meet other parents in similar situations as our own. Each family’s experience is so unique reflecting the “spectrum” piece of ASD so that when you do click with someone outside your immediate circle it makes it that much more gratifying. This mom (I will call her Anne) is amazing.

We hit it off right away as though we were old friends reunited. It all began because she smiled knowingly and compassionately when my son was getting loud and frustrated as we waited for our other children participating in a group sporting activity. I was very conscious of not causing a scene and was trying to keep my son calm to avoid annoying other people.

In moments like these, when my son is having a difficult time in public, I tend not to look around myself. My laser focus is on my son and how to keep the situation manageable while meeting my son’s needs. My son is completely non -verbal, he cannot communicate even his basic wants and needs. If something is bothering him be it the choice of available foods, to a stomach- ache or anything in between, he will experience different levels of meltdowns. Anne was well positioned to understand my son’s feelings. She had an older teenage son who was also non- verbal. She had loads of experience with all the challenges our family experiences on a daily basis. It was such a pleasure for both of us to share our experiences, to see our boys together, to note similarities and differences. The 2 boys even engaged with each other through their mutual love of sesame street! I was so touched when Anne’s son offered to share one of his tablets so my son could watch sesame street beside him. It was an incredibly comforting and positive experience for both of us.

Anne told me about her feelings of isolation and despair particularly due to all the COVID restrictions. She said she was so happy to see her boy out and about without having to worry about the reaction of strangers. And yet, we were strangers. But we shared a transcendent bond – our ASD kids. It struck me afterwards, as we were heading home happy and fulfilled from a fun outing in which both kids truly had a good time, that all it took was a smile to unlock all the pent- up tensions, anxieties and loneliness. I realized in a very tangible way, that we, none of us are alone, we must reach to each other and not be afraid to share a smile. And most importantly, to always remember COVID or not that we are indeed in this together.

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