Teaching empathy to an autistic child is one of the many issues we parents face. I do so in small ways, such as reminding my son to hold the door open for someone who is coming through the same door behind him. I have him help me carry the groceries into the house. We apologize to the cat who was accidentally stepped on. I also try to get Nigel thinking in big-picture terms of empathy, such as donating stuffed animals, toys, and school supplies to a Hurricane Katrina project three years ago and having discussions about the impact of natural disasters and acts of terrorism on people and families, not just buildings.
And so when my sister had the wonderful idea of Nigel joining her for a Habitat for Humanity walk in her area yesterday, I wholeheartedly encouraged Nigel to do it. I told him about Habitat for Humanity and described other people’s living situations to him and how this organization helps. And he wanted to be a part of it.
Yesterday dawned a bit cloudy in Roseburg, Oregon, but we Pacific Northwesterners aren’t daunted by a 66% chance of rain. Nigel went out with his aunt and her dog and jog-walked the two-mile area with about 30 or 40 other participants, and they got a cool “I support Habitat for Humanity” T-shirt out of the deal. I told him I was proud of him for getting involved with a good cause. That night I asked him if he liked going on the walk.
Nigel: I didn’t mind it.
Me: Sometimes when people say they don’t mind something, it indicates that they don’t really like it.
Nigel: Well, the jogging part was a little tiring, but the walking part was okay for me. I liked that part.
Me: Did you like showing support for Habitat for Humanity?
Nigel: Well, we need to do something for the poor.
That’s my boy.