At sport on Sunday there was a new kid. He would have been about twelve.
The boy was asking questions of He-Who-Has-No-Nickname. One after the other after the other. Intelligent questions. He wanted to know all (and I mean all)about the game. Nickname was answering question after question. As you do.
Neither of us gave it a moment's thought, until the boy's mother said "You can tell him to stop if he's asking too many questions".
And the penny dropped - She was apologising for her child.
She must be assuming we were NORMAL people, with NORMAL kids, and this was a NORMAL sport. She must be assuming that we were at that very moment thinking "this kid is a bit weird", and about to start edging our way out of the conversation.
Yes, she had been hovering, watching her child carefully as he initiated social interaction, becoming a bit nervous as the flow of questions became a torrent, and eventually, intervening.
Of course I am imagining all this, but for me, in that moment, it was so real and familiar. The nervous hovering- nervous because you know at any moment the situation is likely to turn, and your child will need rescuing. The watching and waiting - for your child to be rejected by the person he is valiantly trying to converse with.
I considered striking up an ASD conversation with the mother, but just then, I couldn't think of anything 'right' to say, and the moment passed. I think a game started.
I wanted to tell her that her child was safe. That she could relax. That there probably wasn't an NT in sight, child or adult. That she could untangle that knotted ball of fear in her stomach - the one that twists itself tight every time her child ventures near other people or into unfamiliar territory.
That Sunday afternoons in the park were a safe zone. Sanctuary. No apologies necessary.