Am I Gifted or Autistic?

The best conversations with my daughter come when I least expect them. Usually I’m chauffeuring her somewhere and she’s reading in the backseat.Gifted or Autistic?

I find she’s most forthcoming if I don’t press too much, eventually it all comes out.

You know, when you finally hear about what happened at school – two weeks later. Like how she refuses to join in the playground game of Harry Potter because they “play it wrong”.

One of the conversations that weighs heavily in my mind and in my heart is when she thought she had autism. She was six, maybe seven, and in a stage where she worried much more about BIG things then little things.

This particular day I was picking her up from school and I was in a hurry. Probably in a hurry to get to the dry cleaner or the grocery store. Somewhere really important. So given my busy agenda I wasn’t in the most patient of moods.

Anyway, the conversation went something like this:

Her: (in quiet little girl voice) Mom, I think I have autism.

Me: (in exasperated mom voice) You do not have autism.

Her: I like a lot of the same things as L does. (L is her cousin with Asperger’s)

Me: That doesn’t mean that you have autism.

Her: (in logical little girl voice) I know, but I like science a lot and most other kids don’t. They don’t like the same things I do.

Me: (in more exasperated mom voice) Well, you don’t. And just because you like science and math doesn’t make you weird.

Her: (in panicked little girl voice) MOM! I never thought I was weird!

Her: (in grumbly, sad little girl voice) Thanks a lot.

Me: (in shocked and ashamed mom voice) …. Want to get some ice cream?

Not my proudest parenting moment.

It took a little kid who was just trying to figure out how and where she fit in to bring it home to me that being different isn’t weird.

You’re not weird if you like science.

You’re not weird if you have strict rules on how playground games should be played.

You’re not weird if you have autism.

It was just another reminder that words matter. What we say to and in front of our children matter.

No, she doesn’t have autism. But even if she did, I wouldn’t think she was weird.

Professionals have a hard time determining if a child is gifted or autistic – why would I think a little kid could make that distinction?

Some gifted kids are labeled autistic while some on the autism spectrum don’t get recognized as being gifted. What Genius and Autism Have in Common gives good examples of how the characteristics overlap.

Share your experiences with autism – or questionable parenting moments – in the comments.

 April is Autism Awareness Month. Learn more about autism at Autism Speaks.

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