Some people have GayDar. I have AutDar.
And I'm not the only one.
I brought Ryan to the ball pit this afternoon; Stu stayed home due to a snow-shoveling-induced injury. Riding the elevator up with us was a man with his seven-year-old daughter. I was pretty sure the girl had autism because of the way she was clutching her four Sesame Street stuffies; I was even more sure when she dropped to the floor of the elevator and started meowing. When the door opened, she ran off into the golf pro shop. I called to her father, "She reminds me of my kid."
Once Ryan was settled in playing, I considered how to start a conversation with the girl's father in a way that would subtly confirm my suspicions so we can talk about the wonderful world of special needs parenting if I were right, but which wouldn't offend him if I were wrong. I made my way over toward where he had parked himself.
This man clearly had AutDar, too, because he opened the conversation by asking me where Ryan goes to school. "Oh, Katie used to go there. Then she went to Popular Local ABA School and now she's at..."
Once you know what you're looking for, you find special needs kids everywhere. While we were chatting this guy was pointing them out left and right - kids blending in pretty well, but just different enough that he felt confident diagnosing them from across the room.
Then he asked me if I was married, and things started getting weird.
While the kids were playing, I learned way too much about his first wife, his current wife (mentally unstable! on new meds!), his 20-year-old son with ADHD, how five years post-diagnosis he's thoroughly exhausted by his daughter and fears for her future. And there was the adorable anecdote about his daughter swiping the parts of her teacher's picture schedule that represent classroom activities she doesn't like.
Around when this guy was starting to ask me what kind of music I listen to, Ryan announced it was time to go. Good boy. Captain Awesome's always got my back.