The Fearless Voice of the Autism Mom

11/17/2011 09:02 am ET

George Bush should have appointed an autism mom to plan out the strategy for the Iraq war. From this I know. I have three beautiful daughters with autism - and have racked up over 243,300 cumulative hours in the autism world. I'm guessing that's more experience than Donald Rumsfeld had in executing wars. Unlike our Secretary of Defense, I knew instinctively, as both mother and general of my own little autism army, that my first job was to keep my troops safe.

The autism mom must plan several moves ahead, just to get through the day. A simple trip to the grocery store requires the preparation of a military invasion. Hiding in every aisle lurks the potential for a meltdown. The lights are too bright and emit a faint buzz, perceptible only to dogs and to kids with autism. The Koala Krisp cereal has been moved from its usual shelf to an end cap, a blatant insult to my children, who have memorized where the cereal is supposed to be, down to the exact aisle, shelf, and section. I shop on high alert, intent on diffusing problems before they hit us, zig-zagging through the minefield of melons, marshmallows and meat. One eye on the kids, one eye on the door.

What's the worst part of grocery shopping for an autism mom? The clueless nitwits who assault you out of the blue with "the look." The supermarket snipers. If your own toddler has ever become unruly in a store, you've seen "the look." Women glancing sideways at you, whose nostrils flare as if sniffing a shoeful of manure, forehead furrowed in disdain. Fortunately, my girls might not be able to read your expression. But I can. Believe me lady, I can. Do you want me to roll up the New York Times so you can use it to hit me across my bottom while you call me "Bad Mom, very Bad Mom"?

Guess what, Mrs. Mother of the Year? I realize that my 11-year-old daughter is sucking her thumb. That's how she calms herself as she navigates the store with me. Maybe you shove a cigarette into your mouth for the same reason? I don't need a breaking news bulletin to know that my 10-year-old has told me that it's Tuesday eight times in a row in a singsong voice that's just a bit too loud for proper society. And yes, I'm aware that my 6-year-old looks a tad awkward in the cart, her legs now so long that if I put her into rollerblades her feet would glide along the floor. God only gave me two hands and I need both to corral my older girls so Miss Peanut stays in the cart until I can no longer lift her up and over the handle.

We Autism moms learn fast how to plan out every part of our day while leaving ourselves wiggle room for the inevitable glitches that tip the proverbial applecart right over. But the main reason George Bush should have asked an autism mom to help plan out the war in Iraq? We always have an exit strategy.