An Open Letter ..

Dear Farm Owner,

You likely don’t remember us, you probably see hundreds of families come in and out of your apple orchard throughout the day.  But I remember you.  You were a lovely woman, you had short brown hair and you were wearing a maroon jacket.

autism-journey-on-a-farm-1We recently visited your farm with our son, who has autism, and needless to say, we weren’t having a good day.  It started off badly.

Dear Farm Owner,

You likely don’t remember us, but I remember you.

My son woke up on the wrong side of the bed, but we thought that apple picking might lift his spirits seeing as he’s enjoyed it so much in the past.

We met up with my sisters and their children, who do not have autism.  The kids were running around, happy as can be while my son was miserable and insisted on taking off his jacket in the eight degree fall weather.  My husband and I knew we had our work cut out for us.  

As I said, my son insisted on taking off his jacket and he refused to wear a hat, all while the rest of us were freezing our buns off.  This is a new behaviour, not sure why it has suddenly emerged, but it’s just another one of many challenging behaviours we manage to add to our list.

My son typically loves wagon rides but he was so fixated on not wearing his jacket that he couldn’t enjoy himself.  We hesitantly boarded the wagon and we were off to the apple orchard.  The ride was difficult for us. The others were having a great time.

We arrived at our destination and it seemed as though our son might actually pull through — until he saw the tractor drive off.  He chased after it and my niece and nephew decided to imitate my son, and chased after it too.  This didn’t please my sisters and their husbands.  So my husband and I were now chasing not one, but three kids.  We finally managed to wrangle the children back to their parents but at this point our son was so distraught over the tractor’s departure we knew our time was up. 

 As my sisters and their children walked through the orchard, picking apples while taking cute photos of their kids, my husband and I made our exit.

We didn’t say goodbye, we just took off.  We were frustrated and disappointed and we didn’t want to make a scene.  I knew my sisters would understand – or not.  I didn’t really care, we had to remove our son from the situation.  

As we made our way back, my son kicked and screamed and kept repeating that he wanted to see the tractor.  We ignored him and hustled as fast as we could. 

As we approached the exit, there you were.  You looked at us with confusion and asked if everything was okay.  I asked if you worked at the farm and you said “yes, I’m the owner”. You told us that there was a $5 fee for entering the orchard since we came out empty-handed.  I told you that our son couldn’t tolerate being at the orchard and you immediately changed your tone.

As my husband proceeded to return the reusable bag we received upon entry and hand you the $5 we owed, you kindly said “don’t worry about it, keep the bag and come back another day”  We thanked you and continued on with our child.  

As we walked back to the car, I couldn’t stop crying.  I cried because I was frustrated about how our morning unfolded, but more so because of your kindness and understanding.

You didn’t judge us or ask any questions.  You empathized and showed compassion.  Although you might not think you did anything special, you should know that you did.  

People can be so quick to judge or ignore what doesn’t affect them personally, but you didn’t demonstrate either of these qualities.  You seemed to understand that we weren’t having an easy time with our son. 

 So again, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.  It’s people like you who make the lives of parents, particularly those with special needs children, easier when we’re facing difficult moments.