Over the past 6 years, I have noticed that people tend to have a visible reaction when they discover that my daughter is autistic. I have seen people become upset, confused, sad, repulsed, empathetic, scared, typically a negative response. The reactions are more subtle when we are in public, but the underlying themes are the same.
(My first reaction was fear and uncertainty. What do I do? How do I fix it? Where's the duct tape???
I've since embraced the fact that there is nothing to fear and duct tape, although highly effective at making refrigerator box forts, would not help.)
The interesting thing for me is watching parents 'protect' their children from mine. As if, by contact, their children could become autistic as well. Although I don't know if there has been a certified scientific study performed, I am fairly confident that autism cannot be contracted by sharing a slice of pizza or riding next to someone on the bus.
Unfortunately, this reaction is not uncommon and causes some challenges when trying to arrange playdates with classmates, inviting kids to parties, or being invited to parties.
My daughter loves her friends from school, but seems to be omitted from the guest lists more often than not. She plays with many typical children at school who adore her. They embrace her differences and are always trying to bring out the best in her. With any luck, they will be a positive influence on their parents...