Thursday 26 November 2015

How autism is like the new courtesy car

Having a car is essential for us. Despite living in a place with great public transport links, the reality of living with three very different autistic and neurotypical kids is that we can't operate without a car. We have three school drops and medical appointments to get to. And our son David finds travelling on a bus very stressful. We can't afford to be without the car and so we get it serviced and MOT'ed annually at the local dealership which provides us with a courtesy car. It's been the same courtesy car for years. But this year it was different.

"It's a Lupo instead of a Juke," the nice lady at the counter said. It's still a car I thought, and there's something nice about driving a shiny new car. I got the keys and went to switch the barrage of things from our car into this new bright orange Lupo. Except, the Lupo is a much smaller car than we are used to and smaller than the Juke we were expecting. My life didn't really seem to fit into it. For a start it's a four seater not a five seater like the Juke I usually get allocated. This meant every seat apart from the driver seat had a car seat in it. My hubby would not be getting a lift to the train staton, he'd have to walk while we had this car. I had to dismantle to buggy beyond all recognition to fit it in and there was no way to adjust the seat so I couldn't really see the front of the car like I could in the Juke. This meant I crawled around everywhere for fear of damaging the vehicle.

It operated differently to the Juke too. It had this strange auto/manual combo gear box. Flick it the wrong way without noticing and I'd be screeching along stuck in 2nd gear without noticing. There were no parking sensors, but a weird distance thing. So, despite being much smaller than the Juke I felt uncertain about backing out and so went to put the window down to ask one if the guys at the garage to guide me out. But, I couldn't get the window down. I spent a few minutes playing with a switch and eventually worked out I was adjusting the side mirrors. There was in fact a wind down handle right beside me that I hadn't even registered. Thankfully, I was only going to have the car for about four hours.

After I drove it home, I arranged to take my mum and daughter down to the supermarket. I had just about got used to the new gear box but was most relieved to find a parent and child parking space as the idea of parking this unfamiliar car filled me with dread.

Once we'd got a few bits at the shop we returned to carpark. It had got colder and had started to rain. I was glad I had remembered to get the keys out to open the door (the other car had a keyless entry). I popped the car into reverse relatively easily this time and was pleased to see that the back windscreen wiper came on automatically. That's nifty I thought.

An hour or so after we got back home I had a call from the garage to come and get my own car. This was handy as I'd be able to pick up our car before the afternoon school run. I was now fairly comfortable with general operations of the Lupo but driving through the school run and fighting for an on street parking space in the new car still made me nervous.

As I was driving back to the dealership I thought this courtesy car was quite cute really. Different to what I thought I was going to have but it had some nice features too. Even that odd colour choice of orange was growing on me.. a little. It occurred to me how in a sort of way this little courtesy car was not unlike the little boys we had who were diagnosed with autism.

Our lives and society in general was not set up for our beautiful new sons. They didn't fit into the standard or normal settings without (in some cases) big adjustments. All those parenting books were completely useless because our sons simply don't operate in the same way as neurotypical kids. What seems completely obvious to them is a mystery to me and sometimes vice-versa. I'm apprehensive about doing anything different or new with them. It's taken a while to get used to how they work but along the way I've found out that they are really special in ways I didn't expect.

In fact despite always being on edge and not being what I expected, I treasure their differences even though others think what they do is odd. Maybe next time I'll be faster to see the best things in a new courtesy car. Though I expect it'll still take a while to get used to.

See what happened a year later - when autism was still like a courtesy car, it'll make you smile. 


  1. Nice analogy - although the struggle with the car made me feel tired just reading it! Glad you got your car back quickly! #spectrumsunday

    1. Yes, I was pretty glad to get it back too! :-)

  2. I really like your message here and agree totally that if we can learn to see beyond the differences we can find what a treasure we have but it can take time and lots of energy to get there. #spectrumsunday

  3. Yes, absolutely, though sometimes it's exhausting!

  4. I really love this post! Such a great analogy! It's true, we become used to their differences after a while, but for a fair amount of time its hard adjusting to something you didn't expect. Thank you for linking up to #spectrumsunday I really hope to see you there again on Sunday xx

  5. I love this! Thanks for coming over to my blog and telling me about this post. xx

    1. You are welcome. I think it's better than the whole 'Welcome to Holland ' thing. Hope to see more from you and of you soon xxx


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