In the days leading up to Christmas, Ariane excitedly told me that Emma had written, “I want to write a story about Daddy.” Ariane said it was going to be my Christmas present. Obviously, I was incredibly excited as well. But on the following day Ariane came to me after her writing session with Emma and said:
“This story is going to make you cry.”
On Christmas morning, when I untied the bow around the paper Ariane had rolled up, I braced myself. The story was indeed sad, yet hopeful, wonderful and important, like all of Emma’s stories. It was also very private, and so, days later, I still hadn’t asked Emma if I could/should publish it. Ariane asked her today and Emma said she didn’t want the entire story published, but it was okay to post this section:
“One day there was a man and woman who fell in love. They eventually had two children, one son and one daughter. They were very happy. The daughter was distinctly different, but meant well. She did not understand many of the ways of her family.
“Her father told her that she was kind and smart. She ran away because no one believed her to be clever, even though her parents did. Her father wanted many to realize how smart she really was. So he told others “do not treat my daughter like a baby.” People did not listen.
“His daughter was sad, but her parents believed in her, and that mattered more. She was the luckiest girl in the world.”
I’m so glad Emma feels this way. I wish she were even “luckier” and we had known all these things about her many years ago. I do truly believe that I am the luckiest dad in the world. Like Emma, I feel incredibly sad that I underestimated Emma for so long, that I was so utterly clueless to this entirely different aspect of her, that I could not see and appreciate. But I feel so blessed today to hear and see all these amazing parts of Emma I had never understood.
“Better late than never” is an apt phrase to convey both the joy and sorrow I feel, now that I’m aware of what is certainly only a small fraction of Emma’s talents, feelings, insights, intelligence and her poetic soul. It is also an apt phrase to convey the necessity of getting this message out to the world, something that Emma and Ariane, and so many other autistic people and their families and friends have been struggling so hard to do for so long, in the face of an Everest-sized mountain of misinformation from so-called “autism experts.” The most heinous sub(human) class of these is the “debunking” posse, who seem to spend every waking moment of their lives trying to discredit any assisted communication methods for autistic people. Yet no matter how hard they try, and they do try really hard–they will never succeed in keeping these blindingly brilliant autistic minds imprisoned by their willful and malicious ignorance.
The three best gifts I’ve ever been blessed with are my wife Ariane (who I met at a party on Christmas day 15 years ago!), and my wonderful children, Nicholas (age 13), and Emma (who turns 12 in January).
Emma is such a wonderful gift in so many ways. I could write another (even longer) post just listing all the amazing blessings she has brought to me and our family. But I’ll simply conclude by repeating one of the sections of her story that Emma agreed to publish, because it’s the kind of “better late than never” message so many more people need to hear:
“Her father wanted many to realize how smart she really was. So he told others ‘do not treat my daughter like a baby.’ People did not listen.”
Maybe they are listening now, Emma. Maybe more and more people will hear your voice and the voices of your autistic brothers and sisters. Maybe all these people will someday be lucky enough to experience the gift of Emma.