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Welcome to Our World
For the first time, my teenage son with autism and I are ahead of everyone else. We have already developed a skill that the rest of the world is having trouble acquiring. Who would have thought coronavirus would be so…novel?
Long before stay at home orders, before shelter in place became a thing, we were killing it. Why? Because we have been socially distant for fourteen years. When we go out in public, it is nearly effortless to stay six feet from everyone else. In fact, our fellow humans make it easy. They stay at least six feet from us. Picture us in line at Starbucks, Thomas making a sound I can only describe as barking, a sound so loud my ears ring, and just like that, our perimeter is vacant. Thomas’s hands reach out to grope strangers who have moved against the wall in the Mobile Pick-Up area. It’s as if our fellow patrons read our personal autism rule book. Rule #456: do not reinforce a negative behavior. As a bonus, we are simultaneously working on #504: i…
Recent posts

Sometimes Holland Sucks

When I first read the famous essay “Welcome to Holland” by Emily Perl Kingsley, I was touched. The overall premise, for those unfamiliar, is that having a child with a disability is like having planned a dream vacation to Italy, only to find out that the plane has landed in Holland. Not only are you in the wrong country, but everyone you know has been to Italy and talks about it all the time. What’s worse is that you will never go to Italy. Though the text itself is a bit unclear here, I think Kingsley means that you will remain in Holland forever. She could just as easily mean for the duration of the vacation, but either way, you are in Holland. Kingsley writes: for the rest of your life, you will say ‘Yes, that's where I was supposed to go. That's what I had planned.’…And the pain of that will never, ever, ever, ever go away... because the loss of that dream is a very very significant loss. But... if you spend your life mourning the fact that you didn't get to Italy, you…

Intelligent Design

“Nana just finger-fucked the lasagna I was making for dinner tonight.” I could never have predicted hearing these words as soon as I pressed the Accept button. It was my younger sister, Ronnie. I held back laughter, which wasn’t easy when she followed up with, “and she stole my fucking sandwich!” My sister was referring to our 94-year-old grandmother, who she took in a few years ago. Our older sister had just lost her house to foreclosure, then moved in with the blind mechanic next door. She had been sleeping with him for a few weeks before her live-in boyfriend found out and bailed on her, taking her cashed-out 401K with him, but kindly leaving all of their joint debt, including a mortgage she couldn’t afford alone. They had purchased the house together with the noble intention of providing a home for Nana, who had just lost her own house not just when but because our father died. Wait, it gets better. Turned out our father had coerced Nana into signing everything over to him a few ye…

Of Bark and Bite. Another Autism Mad Mothering Moment.

We each have our share of moments we will relive forever, sneaky little flashes that come right in uninvited square in the middle of another moment. Things are going along great—the perfect cup of coffee great, a nailed workout great, new pair of boots-great, and Bam! a clip inserts itself, a brainworm on roids, bigger, stronger, complete with the ability to rewind and replay itself at will, ad infinitum, create its own highlights and soundtrack, freeze-frame, slo-mo, discord.

Here is mine: I feel my teeth sinking in the flesh on my son’s left ring finger. I feel the resistance of skin and bone. I hear, almost out loud, the word bite three times in rapid succession. It is not a reaction, not an instinct to protect myself, but an intentional, briefly pre-meditated action done in deliberate attempt to show him that he should not be pounding my face with his open hand, that inserting his fingers into my mouth and trying to yank my lips off from the inside is a mistake he will regret.

Puberty and Other Autism Suspicions Confirmed

It turns out that my autistic twelve-year-old son is in fact in puberty. This obvious fact was confirmed today by a specialist at the Adolescent Medicine Clinic of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh. The doctor held his testicles in her gloved hand and proudly announced, “Stage three.” A google search would have told me the same thing, or the dark nest of hair in the region she was examining hesitantly while he tried to shove her away. I still bathe him every day and wipe his ass after he goes to the bathroom. I am well aware of what’s going on down there. But if I somehow managed to miss those clues, maybe his seemingly constant erection at every inopportune moment for the last year might have indicated his maturation. I might have also guessed when he removed the mounted head of the trophy buck from our living room wall, straddled it and began moving back and forth surprisingly rhythmically. It was the furthest thing from funny at the time, but by that evening I admit to sending my s…

Ten Years After Autism Diagnosis

This morning I was on my knees on the kitchen floor and I was not cleaning. I was begging for divine intervention. Ten years since the autism diagnosis. Ten. Years. A full fucking decade. I have aged threefold. I am baffled and broken but no closer to an answer than I was when we started this journey. I believe I believe I believe, I repeated over and over as if faith could function like magic. If I just prayed hard enough a fairy godmother would appear to grant my wish. Heal my son. Or give me his pain. Hurt me for my own mistakes, but he has suffered enough. In truth, I could just as easily have meant Ihave suffered enough. Either way, my prayers soon turned into an angry soliloquy, a version of the rant I I have said more than once before. Leave him alone now, you son of a bitch. What kind of monster would hurt an innocent child for things his mother has done? I have done all that you asked. I have tried every potential solution you have given me. Every medicine. A speci…

New chapbook from Rattle press is available!

Turn Left Before Morning, Rattle chapbook contest runner-up, is now available. You may purchase a copy on Amazon:

In the chapbook Turn Left Before Morning, April Salzano explores the daily struggles involved in parenting a child with autism. These poems map a mother’s quest for understanding of a world that requires a significant shift in perspective and a new definition of what it means to love a child. The key to navigating the rough terrain of autism is not something she discovers, but is instead something that has been subtly guiding her all along: autism is as wonderful as it is terrifying, as humorous as it is heartbreaking, in alternating and equal measures.