I went to a friend’s birthday brunch over the weekend. This is a group I don’t see very often, mostly because they tend to do a lot of things in the North Bay, and I’m in the South. Driving an hour on a Friday, during rush hour, for dinner is too much of a pain for me. Anyway, whenever this friend has get-togethers at her place (which is a little closer), I get to see this group. Amongst them is a woman that shares a like of The Vampire Diaries with me, but up until Saturday, I figured that this was all we had in common.
While catching up, she admitted that she didn’t know that I was both working and going to school full-time. I figured that this, in her mind at least, excused me not attending some of her get-togethers. She asked about my thesis, and when I explained that it was about autism, the floodgate of questions started.
Here’s the thing. Sometimes questions can be deeply annoying if they are coming from the wrong angle. I have heard some really weird ones about autism, some that borderline on insulting. Then there are questions like this woman’s. She was genuinely curious. She asked about signs, the latest research, and what I hope to do with the thesis (Publish it? Yes. Turn into a book? God willing, yes.). Then I discovered why: one of her best friends has a teenage son with autism.
We must’ve talked for at least an hour. When she finally got ready to leave, she thanked me for “putting up with” her questions. She admitted that she had felt weird about asking her friend too many questions, and she appreciate my willingness to explain things in a way she understood (for example, explaining what “spatial intelligence” is). It was a challenge sometimes for me to explain certain concepts or ideas, but it felt good to know that there was one more person out there now that understood autism in a more complete way.
Sometimes people are afraid to ask questions. Even the insult-sounding ones, though vexing, are an opportunity to educate. I will always make it a point to encourage others to ask.