By Jeanne Dennis: My youngest daughter, who has Asperger’s/autism, was in second grade at Bowman Woods at this time. Within a few days after 9/11, as she was outside playing, she came running in our front door terrified that she saw and heard a plane. She asked me with big, wide eyes and a tremble in her voice, “Mommy, is that a good plane or a bad plane out there?” This just tore my heart out the instant she asked this, and I then realized just how much she was impacted by this horrible attack on our nation.
I tried to shield her from repeated viewings of those events, but everywhere you went, it was there around you. You could not change the channel fast enough at times to keep these from being the only images seen on a replay loop.
I reassured her that it was definitely a “good” plane and that only military planes were allowed to fly for a while so they are keeping us safe. Well, she “decided” not to go back out and play for quite a while, and that really broke my heart — that her fear of planes in the sky was so real — and we just had to allow time to pass, to help her work through it and to trust the skies above her once again.
It was a big challenge to know what and how much to say to two young daughters, and it was extremely challenging to explain and comfort a child with autism. These kiddos take everything very literally. They don’t relate well to generalizations and expressions. It was a fast-ball learning experience for me on what helped my daughter, as well as what created more questions.
As parents we can protect our kids from many, many things, but the sky is sooo vast — and typical storms overhead are the usual things Iowans worry about–and after not hearing a single plane over the skies above us for a while during this tragedy, I had to look at this eerily quiet rarity and imagine all of this from a child’s point of view.
It gave me great pause as I was caught off guard not really knowing exactly how to act or speak about this with complete parental confidence in this uncharted moment in time.