There’s been an uproar of late over comments made by the co-founders of Autism Speaks suggesting, among other things, that autism is this terrible burden to parents and families that tears them apart. That autism destroys the care-givers of the autistic. That somehow, there must be a cure – or something – because what’s going to happen when these three million autistic children will grow up one day and can no longer have the support of their schools or their parents? The whole discussion ignores the fact that not all who might be labeled as autistic are children.
It ignores a lot.
The whole notion is ridiculous. There are plenty of autistic adults that live full, functional, and happy lives. There are also plenty of autistic children that live full, functional, and happy lives. These people – yes, people, not ‘autistics,’ but people who are autistic – are just people, with some interesting quirks.
Yes, there are some that have problems. Some of the quirks are a bit much to deal with, but there is support for that. There could be more, sure, but why single out autism a “national crisis”?
I am raising a son with autism. He’s nine, some days going on 6, others going on 12. We have our challenges. There are days when yes, I am depleted. Then again, any parent of any child has days when they’re depleted. Why single out autism? This is parenting… with communication challenges. Yes, we have a few extra things to deal with.
It is not a national crisis.
My son is an amazing human being. Being autistic is part of that.
I accept that he likes to sit upside down on the couch and peep. The hand flapping can be a little distracting at times. Hopping on the couch and having a sandwich at 1am, not so great, but will make for a great story later. The meltdowns are ‘unfun’ at best, but we get over them and move on.
But look at what he can do. He’s well beyond his peers academically. He’s my personal tip-calculator (because I’m lazy that way). He sees amazing things that I would never notice.
I wouldn’t have him any other way.
If there is a national crisis it is this: What makes us think that we must ‘cure’ everything that’s different from the ‘norm’? We should work to cure things that shorten people’s lives unnecessarily, like cancer. But why ‘cure’ autism? There’s nothing wrong with these people, they just see the world differently. The world affects them in ways that the rest of us can’t fathom. And sometimes they react in ways that can put themselves or others in danger – sometimes. So we can be mindful of that.
Besides, we all do dangerous things sometimes. Ever hear of ‘road rage’? We could do with a ‘cure’ for that.
But autism doesn’t need a cure as much as it need understanding from both sides. Those bearing the label of autistic know they see the world differently and they try to understand how it works for everyone else. Why can’t ‘normal’ people do the same?
Take a minute. Get to know someone with autism. Better yet, get to know two or three. You’d be shocked at how narrow your own perception of the world really is, and, like me, you can delight in the expanded world that belongs to people with autism.