A Day in My Autistic Life: If Mom Could Read My Mind

Thirty seconds left. I sprint through the Mushroom Kingdom. I must save Princess Peach. I smash Goombas and Koopas. I pound bricks and hoard coins. Resurrection comes at a price and I’m short. The ground rumbles. Bowser’s closing in. Behind two white clouds, a castle appears. I’m so close. A bridge. I miss. I don’t have enough coins.

A bright light illuminates a woman. My mother. I’m not Mario and I’m not oofed. She’s rummaging through my closet. It’s Wednesday. I never forget the day of the week. She’ll probably pick my white polo. Nailed it.

“Morning, Bud. You have any dreams?”

“No.” I lie. My dreams are mine.

I make my way to the kitchen island and fire up Roblox. Fifteen Piggy Morphs left to find. I weave through portals and score three before she disrupts.

“Do you wanna get dressed now or two minutes?”

She asks me this every morning. My answer never changes. “Two minutes,” I say.

She sets the timer on her iPhone. Dad shuffles through the pantry for my only approved lunch—Velveeta Shells and Cheese. The microwave whirs. Mother’s timer dings. I play Roblox.

“Bud, the timer went off, time to get dressed. Do you want my help or do you wanna dress yourself?”

She also asks me this every morning. My answer never changes “Help me,” I say. Buttons and zippers frustrate me more than keyboards. I play Roblox.

The timer dings. I step out of pajamas, find more Piggy Morphs, and step into khakis.

Dad hands me a vial of too-sweet apple juice mixed with crushed, chalky pills. I drink this cocktail before school, at school, and after school. I don’t like it, but I don’t like me without it.

“Bud, we’ve got two minutes until we gotta put on shoes.” Mom sets the timer again.

Two minutes isn’t enough, I need three.

The timer dings. I’m one Piggy Morph short. She and Dad grab jerky legs and force socks on feet. Tears well.

They win. I’m socked and shoed and still missing one Piggy Morph. I throw my iPad and march to the car.

“Have a great day, Buddy. Love you,” Dad says as a fifth-grade patrol opens my door and I exit.

I’m only seven, so my mom is writing this. She’s speculating what she thinks is happening inside my head. My school day is a mystery to her. Other than what my teacher or I tell her, just like my dreams, this part of my life is mine. School stuff happens and then the day ends.

My name is called over the intercom. I’m told to go to slot number three. Mom and Dad smile in our Hyundai Sante Fe.

The fifth-grade patrol opens the door and I pile in. Questions pummel me.

“What did you do today?” asks Mom.

“Did you play with Arvin?” asks Dad.

I give them a little. “We learned about Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. Arvin was sick.” Then I gulp the mixture of Pediasure and milk they’ve brought and zone out. The things I don’t tell them about my day are why I’m too exhausted to talk.

In forty-five minutes my behavior therapist, Miss Danni, will arrive. This waiting period is one of few times I have agency. Today I choose to spend it playing Super Mario Odyssey.

I ask Dad to join and even though he has work to do, he says he can for a few minutes.

I load the cartridge into my Switch. With my favorite controller, I start a new game. My fingers move faster than my brain, and before I realize it, I’ve saved the new game over my old one—one with 370 moons!

I throw the controller. I scream. I throw plushies. “Daddy, please check your phone and see if you can restore it?” Tears stream. I worked so hard for those 370 moons. I don’t go backward. I am a finisher.

Dad gives the unwelcome report. “Sorry, Bud, I looked it up and there’s no way to restore once you save over the file.”

I scream at mom and dad. I hate them. I hate Mario. I hate my Switch. I cry until my eyes dry. Mom and Dad are still there. They ask if I need hugs. I do.

I force back tears. I’ll find the 370 moons again. I know where each is hidden. I don’t like it, but I can do it.

The doorbell rings. Mom goes outside. A few minutes later, Miss Danni is in my room.

“Hey Bud, watcha playing?” she baits me.

“Super Mario Odyssey,”

“Anything you wanna tell me about this game?”

“Nope.” I’ve scored twenty moons. Only 350 to go.

“You’ve got seven minutes, then we’re gonna make your schedule.” Miss Danni sets a timer.

When the timer dings, she and I velcro-label my afternoon—when I’m going to take my medicine, have my snack, read a story, do my homework, wash my lunchbox, take a break, Miss Danni’s choice, and my favorite Barclay’s choice.

I remove each label as we complete the activities.

I’m on chapter six of Captain Underpants. But that’s not what we read today. Instead, Miss Danni reads me a story about personal space. We practice personal space. I wonder if Captain Underpants has a therapist.

During homework, I stomp to my room and slam my door. Adding three-digit numbers is hard—even with base ten blocks. I lie on my bed and breathe like Miss Danni taught me.

When I return and complete the difficult problem, she and Mom say they are proud of me.

For Barclay’s choice, I select Roblox. Miss Danni makes an account and I show her how to find the Piggy Morphs. I score my last one. Finally, I finish something.

At 5:30, Miss Danni and I hug and she leaves.

The rest of the evening flies by. I eat. I shower. I play more Roblox. I keep my routine.

My parents tuck me in. Dad turns on the sound machine. Mom turns on the moon night light.

“I love you, Buddy,” they say.

“I don’t want a hug or a kiss,” I tell them.

They leave.

Alone, I regret my statement. I call out, “Mom, Dad.”

They return. “I do want a hug and kiss,” I say.

They squeeze me until I’m full.

“I love you,” I tell them.

They leave again.

I snuggle my plushies—Spiderman, Ghostie, Figure, and Sonic. Tonight, I’ll dream. I don’t know what it will be—but it will be mine.

Published by Amy Nielsen

Amy Nielsen is a former children's librarian of nearly twenty years. She now spends most of her time obsessively pounding on a keyboard. She is the author of It Takes a Village: How to Build a Support System for Your Exceptional Needs Family, Goldilocks and the Three Bears: Understanding Autism Spectrum Disorder. Her upcoming YA Worth it debuts in May of 2024. She is also a freelance writer for The Autism Helper. When she's not writing, she and her family are most likely crusing the waters of Tampa Bay.

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