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Dani Gillman
BY Dani Gillman

Shedding Some Light

So, I’m in a long line at Whole Foods, picking up a couple of  grapefruits, when a woman two people in front of me gives me a look and goes, “it’s so bad!” I figured she was complaining about the check-out girl’s speed or someone in front of her writing a check (who writes checks at a grocery store anymore, BTW?). She obviously noticed that I didn’t know what she was referring to and said “that noise- she must have some kind of disorder.” Then I heard it. From across a few lanes, I could hear a chirping noise, but I couldn’t spot its source. The lady in front of me asked, “Are you two together?” I answered, “no, I have no idea why she just started talking to me.” And I didn’t. But then, the second lady picked up where the other conversation had left off and said “that girl must have some kind of disability to be making that noise. It’s awful. Maybe she is Autistic or something.” It was my turn to talk, but I didn’t really want to engage, so I just shrugged my shoulders and said “hmmm, maybe.” I didn’t say that yes, it could be Autism, or any other disorder that causes verbal tics like Tourette Syndrome or something else. But in the back of my mind I was thinking, it’s Autism Awareness month and here’s a chance to educate someone. That’s when she kinda mumbled “Seems like a lot of kids have Autism these days. I’m glad I don’t have that. I’ve got enough problems…” So, I said “Well yes, about 1 in 100 kids in the U.S. has Autism.” She was impressed and asked me if I study this stuff. I kinda giggled and said “My daughter has an Autism Spectrum Disorder.”  And then- no joke- she started crying. CRYING!!!

I think the crying was because she felt bad for saying “Thank G-d I don’t have Autism in my life” and then I was like “I do! I do!” She apologized for saying it. I told her it wasn’t a big deal. I had felt that way a million times before I knew I had it in my life. Listen, I still think it a million times about other things…. having a feeling like that isn’t a bad thing; it’s really a kind of gratitude. I am so grateful that my kid doesn’t have a bunch of other things. My little girl is healthy, happy, so loving and sweet, makes an amazing difference in the lives of others…. I can keep going with things I am grateful for.

This lady wanted to keep talking to me- and she did. Another lane opened up and I switched- and she KEPT talking to me!! She even followed me out of the store to keep asking questions about Autism. I answered them to the best of my ability. Then I got in my car, drove home, and met my husband and kid after their adventures at the library. After that, we all went to Target where my kid refused to sit in the cart and then ran all around the store, playing with loads of toys, saying hi to random customers, and having fun. Doesn’t sound that weird, right? Well, today has been a good day for her- and for me. After all, I helped bring awareness about Autism to a stranger today!

Dani Gillman

Written on May 3, 2010 by:

Dani Gillman is Cofounder and Head of Marketing at Birdhouse– a Detroit-based startup empowering parents raising children with special needs to learn more about their children through a behavior journaling app for iPhone, Android and the web. She’s also mom to a 11 year old daughter (who happens to have Autism) and a 2 year old son (who doesn’t appreciate naps as much as his mother does).