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ASD Snapshot: What Do You Think?

~ A moment in time that defines: taking the time to ask...what matters to you?

By Teresa HedleyPublished 3 years ago 3 min read
Scott, Erik & Heather with former CBC anchor Peter Mansbridge, Remembrance Day, 2014

October 22, 2014. Ottawa is under attack. My mother emails me at 10:30 a.m. and keeps it brief. You might want to turn on the TV news. (She knows I don’t much.) Ottawa is under attack.

At that moment the phone rings and the answering machine picks it up. It’s a call from Erik’s school. They are in lockdown. The phone rings twice more, immediately. It’s Heather’s school: lockdown. Scott’s: lockdown. I imagine them all hunched under their desks wondering what’s going on. Heather and Scott will absorb the calm and direction of their teachers. Erik may not. What is he thinking?

I switch on the TV and sit glued to it throughout the day. I suspect most of Ottawa does the same. The city fills with national and international news crews, special police teams and the army. What’s going on?

We soon hear: a lone gunman has shot and killed a soldier at the National War Memorial. The gunman has been taken down in Parliament. The gunfire, as it ricocheted off of the stone pillars and walls, was earsplitting. Ottawa?

Two and a half weeks later, we take our three teens out of school, and we attend the National Remembrance Day ceremony downtown. Typically, Frank and I attend together, he in uniform and I a civilian observer. We have never done this, all five of us, because it’s not a day off school in Ontario. This year we make it one because we think it’s important that our three attend.

We stand huddled together, and I imagine Antarctic penguins sheltering one another from the bitter cold. We are a huddle among huddles, cocooned in a crowd of toques and berets. How very Canadian. What strikes me is the silence in a gathering so large. All I can hear is the rattling of ropes smacking metal flag poles—that and the occasional child. But mostly, the sound of silence.

Police snipers line rooftops. This is not our Ottawa, but it is the new Ottawa. A sermon is read and the words are riveting. I pull out my iPhone and begin to tap the message into it. Scott frowns. “You’re texting? Now?” I flash him, Notes.

“Recording,” I whisper.

“Everything has changed, but nothing has changed. We are now all guardians of peace.”

I love these words. But what remains with me on this solemn day are the four words spoken by one of our nation’s finest, former CBC anchorman Peter Mansbridge. Each year I am among the gaggle of middle-aged women who gather to see him—to hear him—after his Remembrance Day broadcast. This year is no different except that I haul the family over to observe, to gawk and to soak in that voice. That voice.

To my surprise, this year we have an opportunity to take pictures with Peter and to chat. And this is where I am struck by four words that I do not expect but that I ought to have expected. He is clearly surprised and pleased to see three teens have taken the time to attend (they are among a very few). Instead of lecturing them on the event, he does what he does best. He looks at our three standing in front of him and he asks, “What did you think of the ceremony?” He wants to know. Inquiring minds do. Imagine being asked. I think of autism support and of Erik. Imagine being asked what he thinks, what he wants.

That moment stays with me.

What do you think?”

Four words that speak so much.


Points to Ponder: When we ask “What do you think?” we are offering one of the highest forms of esteem: we are showing respect. Observe the effect. Notice that the person being asked stands a little taller, speaks with a little more confidence and smiles a little brighter. Esteem and worth...ours to give.

Teresa Hedley is the author of What’s Not Allowed? A Family Journey with Autism (Wintertickle Press, 2020), a memoir which offers an uplifting approach to mining the best version of each of us, autism or not. Teresa is also an educator and a curriculum designer. Teaching stints in Canada, Japan, Greece, Spain and Germany have shaped her perspective and inform her writing. Teresa and son Erik co-wrote a twenty-article series for Autism Matters magazine, “I Have Autism and I Need Your Help.” Additionally, Teresa worked directly with families and school boards in Ottawa as an autism consultant and advocate. She and her family live and play on Vancouver Island.

Teresa with What's Not Allowed?

"There are a lot of lessons on these pages for all of us, and we can benefit from considering them and acting upon them."

–PETER MANSBRIDGE, former anchor and chief correspondent, CBC’s The National; Stratford, ON, Canada


About the Creator

Teresa Hedley

Greetings from the beach... where you'll find me exploring, reading, writing, hiking and kayaking with our local seals. I'm excited to share my stories with you via What's Not Allowed? A Family Journey With Autism. Now on Amazon + Chapters

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    Teresa HedleyWritten by Teresa Hedley

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