By Valerie Abbott

To the mother I met today on the beach,

After our brief encounter today on the shore in North Carolina, I felt compelled to say a few things to you. But, I couldn’t – because you had already packed up and headed home after a long, exhausting day. So, now I’m faced with choosing to say nothing…or write an open letter to you: the mother of the autistic boy I met today.

First, I was not at all bothered when your son ran over and grabbed the beach toys that he was so clearly interested in from under our tent. From the look on your face, you may have been embarrassed, frustrated, annoyed. You apologized several times to me and even rinsed the sand off of the boogie board. Your son is beautiful and watching you play with him in the waves for what must have been four hours was a wonderful thing for me to witness. He was a welcome, unexpected guest.

Second, I meant what I said. Your son really was welcome to play with what we had. A diver’s mask, a broken boogie board. My offer was genuine…and has not expired.

Lastly, I want to thank you. Thank you for sharing with me that your son is autistic. I assume you shared that as an explanation for his behavior, but you didn’t have to. Maybe other people have been snippy or judgy or cruel. Please know that what I experienced today, what I witnessed today, was amazing. You are amazing. A beautiful boy and a beautiful mom who was eager to play and run and laugh… and at times chase her son as he was drawn to something in someone else’s tent that wasn’t his.

You are amazing. And to witness that type of amazing took my breath away.

I hope our paths cross again tomorrow…

The mom under the tent


**Valerie Abbott is a 1-3-6 Family Educator and Learning Community Coordinator for the Center for Family Involvement at VCU. In this dual role, Valerie works closely with parents of deaf and hard-of-hearing children and professionals to help reduce loss to follow up. A graduate of Hollins University, she lives in Henrico County with her husband and two daughters, one of whom is hard-of-hearing. **

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