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Something Was Wrong With My Autistic Adult Son, But He Couldn’t Say What

Nat Batchelder and his mother, Susan Senator, at the Special Olympics, Foxborough, Mass. (Courtesy of Nat Batchelder)

Nat Batchelder and his mother, Susan Senator, at the Special Olympics, Foxborough, Mass. (Courtesy of Nat Batchelder)

By Susan Senator
Guest Contributor

Something was wrong with Nat.

I got the call about my 25-year-old severely autistic son just as I was parking, about to meet a friend for coffee. It was from Richard, the day program director. Like many adults with significant disabilities, Nat spends his weekdays at a day program, an organization that helps his employer so that he can work — he does carriage return at a local Shaw’s. When Nat is not working at Shaw’s, he is out in the community with support staff and others individuals in his program, volunteering at Meals on Wheels and various activities.

Richard got right to it: “I don’t know how to tell you this. But Nat came in with puffy eyes and was really not himself, you know the way he’s been lately.”

A poisonous feeling started flooding my throat. Oh, I knew.

Richard continued: “He was hanging his head, quiet, not talking to himself, not walking around. I asked him some ques­tions — he started crying a little.” Nat always talks to himself and paces. Although he can talk a little, for the most part you have to really know him to figure out what he’s trying to say. He is very severely impacted by autism and some developmental delays.

“What questions?” I broke in, wanting to cry myself. But I already kind of knew.

Richard had asked Nat questions about whether someone had been touching him, hurting him.  Continue reading