But the summer brought a new set of aides and driver. It hit me that these folks knew only "Cannabis J." -- a sparkly-eyed boy who says hi to them each morning, goes quietly to his seat, even tries to help put his snap-on harness on.

One day, J.'s regular aide was sick, and a lady with a wacky smile lovingly escorted J. off the bus. There was something familiar about her; once I superimposed a hateful frown on her face, I burst out to my husband, as the bus snorted away, "It was her, wasn't it?" We laughed as J. looked on. "Funny!" he said.

There's a twist to the happy marijuana story, though. While the cannabis has eased J.'s most overwhelming problem, his autism has become more distinct. As the school data show, his aggressive behavior is far less frequent, but his outbursts -- vocalizations that include screams, barking, yips of happiness -- remain. When J. was in his dark phase, we spent our time out of sight, out of mind, inside our house with a screeching, violent, food-and-dish-flinging J. The sounds were contained by double-paned windows (when they weren't broken). Now, within our family, we've reached a lovely homeostasis: household goods unbroken, our arms and J.'s face unscratched. But as we venture outside to play in the yard, take after-dinner walks, or ride with J. on our tandem bike, we can see that the people in the neighborhood know our family is different, and that this is not always to their liking.

Our closest neighbors (on one side, we could probably pass them a pie from our kitchen) have always been understanding. But on the next street, a man stops playing ball with his son when he sees us, and pushes his boy into the house as we approach, turning his back on J.'s cheery "hel-llooo!" He is the man we suspect yells at us -- from behind other houses, so we can't see him -- when J. sometimes vocalizes a bit loudly outside. Then there's the mom with the son about J.'s age (who, incidentally, sounds exactly like J. when he screams). She won't make eye contact when we pass, and pointedly ignored a party invitation from us. I've also heard, from behind a fence of a family who stares at us but never says hi, "Oh, that's J."