We are always looking to increase awareness about autism. This is done in many ways. We talk about autism, I share this blog, we call politicians to advocate for increased funding, and we live in our community.
We have lived in our town for over 15 years. As many others do, we frequent the same places and Brandon goes with us. We get to know employees and they get to know us, and Brandon.
One of these establishments is our local quick shop. It is locally owned (not a chain) and is close to the high school. We stop in there on a regular basis. The owners and employees are marvelous. They know Brandon is going to get three cheese sticks, a small bag of yellow chips (Lay’s brand – the package is yellow), and an orange soda.
When we walk in the store, we are greeted with hellos and a lot of “Brandon! How are you?” Brandon gives high fives and fist bumps.
This past summer was hard for Brandon (and us, too). He was aggressive and hit me many, many times, but not usually in public. Josh, Brandon, and I were at the quick shop one day, waiting in line to pay for our stuff. Brandon became angry about something. I have no idea what set him off, but he began hitting me in the head. Josh was trying to get him out of the store and I was just trying to pay for our stuff. People were staring.
One of the owners was behind the counter and simply said to everyone else, “he has autism. This is his mom and she knows what to do. Be kind.” Brandon and I both immediately calmed down. She had our back. I was so very happy for her support and understanding. And the next time we went in the store, she acted as if nothing had happened. Brandon was not treated any differently. There were still high fives and fist bumps. That is awareness.
Haircuts with Brandon were the bane of our existence for years. He hated the whole process. We would cut his hair at home with the help of several friends. It was awful for everyone involved.
As Brandon got older and stronger, I knew we had to come up with something to make this process more manageable. I spoke with the manager of the place we took our other sons. Turns out, she had a cousin with autism and was more than happy to work with us.
I took Brandon with us when his brothers would get their hair cuts. I took pictures and made a “Brandon’s Hair Cut” book for him to look at at home. We introduced him to the staff. They let him sit in the chair and touch the scissors and clippers.
We did this a couple of times and then I made the appointment. I am not gonna lie….I was nervous, apprehensive, and hopeful. The first haircut in the salon was exhausting for all of us. Brandon needed a lot of breaks and Skittles to get through it. The stylist was patient and kind and we made it!
Now, Brandon does really well with haircuts. We go to the same place. He sits in the same chair and he touches (and smells) the clippers before he lets them touch his head. There are fewer breaks needed. We always have Skittles with us to help him through. And Taco Bell after. He does great!
They say it takes a village to raise a child with autism. These folks are a part of our village and we love them. If you are out and about in your community, and you see someone struggling, be kind! It could just make someone’s day so much better.