Several months ago, I entered this short story in the Trifecta contest. I am re-posting it as the story reflected some of the stories I heard from families with kids with autism.
Red car, red car, red car; blue car, blue car, blue car. The small blonde-haired boy bent over the toy cars, intently arranging them in the same pattern again, and again. As his mother watched, her face a mixture of fatigue and questioning, she asked herself the same questions she had asked herself so many times. Why the intense fixation over certain toys; the meltdowns, screams over unseen terrors; no response to hugs, so many unfixable behaviors, and most difficult of all, no words, just sounds and small grunts to indicate desires.
As she watched, an image came to her. There is a deep, dark space between us; his thoughts cannot reach me. I cannot comprehend what he wants, what he thinks, how to help him.
The past few years came rushing back, their joy at having their first child, but as time went by, the realization that something was very, very wrong. Tests, doctors, therapists, psychologists, always searching for answers, a way to make Matthew whole, but there were no answers. Her marriage slowly disintegrating from stress and lack of attention. Her husband away at work for longer and longer hours.
As she watched the cars being lined up, her small son seemed to take no notice of her. She tried crossing that deep, dark space again. "Matthew, Matthew, where are you?" He looked up. "Mama?" he said.