I’m Going to Need to Explain It Better

Well, this was bound to happen, sooner or later.

Over Thanksgiving, I brought Martin supplements as he was playing in his bedroom. He swallowed them without liquid, as he does for all pills other than Li-Zyme Forte, which he calls his “hard-to-swallow pill.” I don’t usually deliver supplements to Martin’s bedroom; we do them in the kitchen, preferably with meals. On this occasion, with my family visiting for the holiday, I was trying to get a jump on the evening protocol and make dinner a more normalized affair.

Without looking at me, still drawing a picture on his easel, Martin asked, “Why do you give me these pills?”

Ooooo. Okay. I said, “Remember when we talked about your tummy having troubles, and how when your tummy has troubles, it can make it hard to pay attention?”


“These pills are meant to help your tummy work a little better.”

“Do my friends take pills?”

“I’m not sure about all your friends. Bobby does, and so do Z and Jackson.” Those are friends whose families treat their autism and other challenges biomedically.

“Some of my friends take pills, but not all of my friends?”

“I think that sounds right.”

“Okay,” Martin said. “I’m drawing a picture of the Beatles.”

“I like it,” I said, relieved that he’d changed the topic.

The conversation left me with two take-aways:

  1. Martin is bound to ask the questions again, and probably won’t let me off so easy. I’m going to have to think carefully about how to respond.
  1. One of these days, I’m going to get hit with the bomb. Martin is going to ask, “Do I have autism?” We came close once already. We were out to dinner with friends when Martin, who took especial interest in street signs around the time, asked, “Mommy, what’s a ‘Child With Autism Area’?” I responded that a sign like that means that drivers should be extra careful because a child who lives nearby might not realize how dangerous it is to be in the street. Then Martin asked what autism is. As Andrés and our dinner guests listened in silence, I responded, “Autism is a condition that can make it difficult to pay attention to what’s going on around them, or difficult to talk to other people.” I waited, mildly panicked, for Martin to ask whether he has autism. But he didn’t. He changed the topic. Bomb dodged.