Well, who am I kidding? It doesn't matter if your children are neuro-typical or special needs. Explaining a Deployment to any toddler or early elementary school aged kiddo is tough - heck, sometimes explaining it to ME is tough! There are a couple of pretty significant differences, though, in explaining deployments and long separations to children with autism, versus your NT kiddos.
Here's my Top Five list of Why Explaining Deployments to Children with Autism Sucks:
5) Understanding of Time. Which is what most kids with autism lack! You've heard the saying, "Time is relevant." That means it is abstract. There's something that children with autism have a real difficult time understanding. Sure, it's hard for a NT to grasp that Mommy or Daddy will be gone for six months, but when your child with autism literally thinks every day is Easter (like mine)? Let's just say that things become a bit more difficult to explain!
4) Lack of Emotional Connection. At least on the surface, this is true. A typical kiddo may tell you that he feels sad, or misses daddy. A child with autism will not. A child with autism may ask - repeatedly (oh, GOD, repeatedly) - where daddy is, but in my experience it is scripting. He knows something is up but it becomes a rote response. No matter how many times you give the answer, the next question is still the same, "Where Daddy go?"
3) Explaining Mommy or Daddy's Job. Our kiddos are still pretty young: 4 and 5. Most kids this age just have a very basic understanding of their parent's careers; I get that. But, for us, the only thing I could come up with to garner any sort of understanding of The Hub's career was: "Daddy is on his ship hunting pirates!" The boys are in a pirate phase right now, so immediately their Dad morphed into Captain Hook. They both want to play Mr. Smee to his Captain! (Do you know how many times we have watched Return to Neverland?)
2) Random Moments of Perseveration. Yeah, I know. It's what autistic kids do. However, to see your son for forty-five minutes perseverate on the same three sentences, "Daddy in his truck?", "We go in Daddy's truck?", "Bro[dd]er, you come with me in Daddy's truck!" All while touching the truck, rubbing the truck, quickly escalating things to the point of no return...So heart wrenching. You just wish you could help, but there really isn't anything I have found that can get them past this when they're "stuck."
1) Communication Issues. Again, hallmark component of autism. I get it. But, we can't reminisce about old memories and time spent with Daddy. I mean, I guess I could, but that's just it: "I" would be doing all the talking. Most likely whatever story I told would have something in it that would lead to them perseverating on that item - not Daddy - for oh, the next month or so! God help me if I talk about our last camping trip. I'd get endless - and repeated - questions about where the camper is, why it is closed for winter, why the camper "not at you house?"...repeated...without stop...for days...
Then again, it might be a nice break from all the questions about why we aren't coloring eggs for Easter today!