While we constantly think about how events affect our children on the spectrum we sometimes forget that all children are vulnerable to trauma and loss.
Last week I visited my dentist for my 6 month cleaning. His eldest child is at a college in Washington D.C. At the time of 9/11 this child would have been in elementary school. We can say that at so young an age, children may not really identify with world-wide events or even hold fast to memories. Unlike our aspies there is no OCD or anxiety disorder that causes trauma and that for the neurotypical time heals all wounds. Apparently not so.
My dentist told me that on Sunday night, he and his wife had gone to bed early. Well before any announcement by President Obama. They had no idea what had transpired. Suddenly at close to midnight, the phone range and it was their son.
"We got him," the college student yelled into the phone.
"Got who?" my bewildered dentist asked, just grateful that his son was fine but still trying to figure out why the boy was calling at such an ungodly hour.
"Osama bin Laden, " he replied. The young college student and his friends had actually been some of those young people in front of the White House celebrating that justice had finally come.
Well that definitely was the end of sleep for my friendly neighborhood dentist. He turned on the television as fast as he could and just could not get back to sleep. Together we marveled at how excited his son was and how much it meant to the boy and his friends that OBL had finally been dispatched.
I made an interesting observation that day too, when watching pictures of the celebrations from D.C. and Times Square. Most of those celebrating were the very young. Most could not have been more that young teens, if that old at the time of 9/11. Yet, this event shaped their young lives in ways we as adults, may never have really thought about. We think that children can endure anything. That youth has a way of living through events and taking everything in their stride. Perhaps not.
I know for my own boys it took years to deal with the after effects of 9/11, but then again they are aspies, obsession and perseveration are a way of life for us. On that day of 9/11, the boys also did not know for hours if their father was alive or dead. That kind of scare can and does have a profound effect on a young life. Of course, for most of the children in the New York City area, 9/11 was a day that many will never truly forget. Perhaps that is why you had the celebrations in Times Square and in D.C., which has an abundance of NYC residents as students in their colleges. Perhaps that is the lesson that we learn here. Children no matter who they are and no matter their neurotypical status are more vulnerable and more susceptible to events than we understand. That for many the idea of "closure" is more of a necessity than we think.
Until next time,