Tag Archives: disabilities

The School Bus: How Do We Make Sure Our Children Will Be Safe?

Last week I wrote this – Emma Refuses To Get Off The Bus And A Self Advocate Is Born!  That Friday afternoon, I received a letter from the OPT (Office of Pupil Transportation) saying we had a new bus and route number for Emma and to call the bus company for a pick up time.  When I called they informed me I would need to call this morning to get a specific pick up time, but assured me that this time the bus was scheduled to take her to the correct school.   This morning I called and received their anticipated pick up time and told Em that I would go downstairs to wait with her.  Emma was noticeably and justifiably nervous about getting on another bus after last week’s mishap and so I consoled her by saying I would talk to the driver, make sure they were going to the correct school and see if they’d allow me to ride on the bus with her, just this once.

When the bus arrived I spoke with the driver asking that I be allowed to accompany Emma just this one time, given how badly things went last week.  The driver told me he’d have to get an okay from the company, despite the bus matron’s loud protests that this was not allowed.  Emma held onto my hand as we stood together on the sidewalk and waited while he called various phone numbers, each time being told I would not be allowed to accompany my daughter this ONE time.

I have to interrupt this narrative to say, this is not the first time we’ve had issues with OPT and the bus for my daughter.  A few years ago a driver picked Emma up and then, because it was summer and most of the children on his regular route no longer took the bus, he arrived at her school 45 minutes early.  Instead of telling the bus company and adjusting the pick up time or telling us so that we could call the company, he drove to a side street, parked the bus and waited for FORTY-FIVE MINUTES with Emma, the only child in the entire bus who had no idea why she was being held captive in an empty school bus on a side street for, what must have seemed like an eternity.  He did not try to explain to her what was going on, it did not occur to him (evidently) that being told to remain seated for that length of time might be distressing.  The only reason we even learned of this was because Emma came home from school that afternoon agitated and upset and because she is echolaic and is a terrific mimic and captured the driver’s voice and accent so that I was able to finally figure out why my daughter was scripting,  “You sit back down!  You have to WAIT!  I told you to sit down and be quiet!”  As there are no cameras on board, I had only Emma’s scripts to rely on.  We then called the bus company and our lawyer and Emma never rode with that driver again.

So this morning when the bus told me they would not allow me to accompany my daughter, I did not put her on the bus, but took her to school myself.  After numerous phone calls to the OPT, her school and the  bus company it was explained to me that they are not legally allowed to have parents ride the bus as it opens them up to all kinds of other issues, the least of which is if one parent is allowed, all parents then must be.  I get it.  Really, I do.  I understand.  But how do we move forward?  How do we make sure our children will be safe?  How do we entrust our children to people who may be given the wrong information?  How is it that there are no cameras on board busses taking Special Education children to school?  How is it that the State of NY does not have a law that ALL school busses have a GPS on their busses?  How is it that once our child steps on that bus, there is no way to supervise what goes on?

Tonight we will, once again do our best to prep Emma for tomorrow’s bus ride.  We will tell her that the bus is going to pick her up and will then pick up two more children, that they will then drop some of those children off at a different school, before driving Emma and the remaining children to her new school.  I have asked the school to have a familiar and friendly face greet her tomorrow morning.  I will do my best to reassure her.

I will tell her she is going to be taken to the correct school this time.

I will go over what she can do if she becomes nervous or scared.

And I will hope that she’s going to be okay.

Waiting for the bus this morning

Emma at the American Natural History Museum

Be Honest And Why That Often Hurts

Every morning I sit down to write a post for Emma’s Hope Book on this computer in my studio and look at the traffic speeding to and from Manhattan on the 59th Street bridge.  Sometimes I already know what I want to write about.  Often  I thought of something the night before, or if Emma did something I feel compelled to write about, I do.  But there are other mornings when I have a number of things I want to write about, but none seem ready to be put on the page.

Be honest.  I repeat to myself each morning before I begin.  But there are some mornings I don’t want to be honest, because honesty can be painful.  Some mornings I just want to write some other version of my life, a fantasy that doesn’t require me to dig down into the darkness.

Cover of "Boy Alone: A Brother's Memoir"

Cover of Boy Alone: A Brother’s Memoir

I read a memoir a few years ago, by Karl Greenfeld called A Boy Alone.  Karl’s father, Josh Greenfeld wrote a memoir about his son, Karl’s brother, A Child Called Noah  several decades earlier.  I didn’t love Josh’s memoir, but I was enthralled with Karl’s as he writes beautifully.

(Spoiler alert – do not read the next 2 paragraphs if you have any intention of reading A Boy Alone as I am going to give away the entire ending.)

Toward the end of the book, Karl writes about moving away from home and how over time, as he struggled with addiction and other challenges, his autistic brother seemed to find himself and eventually could not only live independently, but seemed to have a maturity and wisdom Karl was still struggling to obtain.  As I read these pages I began to read more quickly, trying to figure out how this could have happened, what therapy helped Noah, what exactly was it that propelled him forward, allowing him to become verbal and freeing him from a  life of institutionalization?  But Karl was not forthcoming with this information.

Karl ends the book with doctor’s reports from the various institutions Noah was placed in. The reports are horrifying, the drugs, the restraints, the “therapies,” sadly commonplace in such places are all documented in the dry, hollow tone of doctors and caregivers who have completely separated themselves from the human beings they are administering to.  As I read, I began to reluctantly realize that these reports were the truth, not the previous pages of Noah’s miraculous progress from institution to independence and I wept.  I hated the book.  I felt betrayed.  I felt manipulated.  That book, A Boy Alone has haunted me ever since.  Even now years later I cry when I think of it.

I’m nine-years old home sick with the flu.  My father comes in to read me a story before he goes out horseback riding.  He says to me before he leaves, “I’ll finish the story when I come home.”

“When will that be?” I ask him, turning away from the bright sunlight pouring in through my bedroom window.  

“Soon,” he promises.

Only he never came back to finish that story.  That afternoon he went over a jump with his horse where there was a low hanging tree branch from a massive oak.  His horse cleared the jump, but in doing so my father was crushed by that branch.  He fell to the ground, his back broken.  Paramedics were called and sped him off to the hospital where it was determined he might not live.  Later we were informed he would likely be paralyzed for the rest of his life.  He spent many months in the hospital.  Every few weeks the doctors would gravely give us their opinions.  They were almost always wrong.  Eventually he came home, over the years of physical therapy, exercises, sheer force of will and determination, my father was able to walk and even got back on a horse.   But the nerve damage to his legs was extensive and as he aged he lost more and more of his strength.  The last decade of his life was spent in a wheelchair. 

I write this because, though I didn’t know it at the time, his accident changed everything and has informed my life today in ways I could not have imagined.  I saw how people treated him.  I saw how a wheelchair had the power to change the conversation.  Often it was a subtle change, but there was no mistaking the looks of pity, the attempts to disguise their discomfort, the undisguised irritation strangers would display if his wheelchair caused them to slow down, move out of the way or forced them to accommodate him.  My father was a proud man, athletic, capable and prided himself in never depending on anyone for anything.  And yet, in the end he had to and he hated it.

Be honest.

I am.

I Got To Meet A Unicorn Named Ibby

Celebrities and important people populate New York City in the same way Starbucks does, in other words, look hard enough and you’ll find one on every street corner.  But Sunday I had an encounter that was more impressive than running into a dozen A list celebs.  Sunday I met Ibby Grace.

Ibby, also known by her professional name, Dr. Elizabeth J. Grace,  Assistant Professor at National Louis University, is a terrific public speaker, wonderfully sarcastic, understands irony and rhetoric, has a sense of humor and is an extremely kind and compassionate human being, in a long standing relationship, a new mom to twins, and is Autistic.   If you believe the common assumptions about Autistics, Ibby is an anomaly.  According to the current “statistics” citing 1 in 4 Autistics diagnosed are girls, Ibby is even more unusual.  That she also displays qualities thought to be nonexistent in all Autists makes her, as she suggested with a certain degree of sarcasm, “a unicorn” or as a participant volunteered, “pegasus.”

Ibby spoke Sunday at the 12th Annual International Conference on Disability Studies in Education on Autistic and Female:  They say that’s rare, and so many other things.  She proceeded to dispel the many myths surrounding the little known and misunderstood segment of the human population – The Autistic Female.  In her talk she mentioned various theories including Simon Baron-Cohen, the creator of possibly the single most destructive theories regarding autism, The Theory of Mind and Mindblindness, which postulates that Autists are unable to empathize and his latest theory – The Extreme Male Brain.  I will not do Ibby’s talk justice by trying to represent it here.  Suffice it to say, you should have been there.

After the talk I stayed and chatted with a number of people.  As  Ibby and I walked together I told her how thrilled I was to meet her and other Autistic women who were beating a path, a path my own daughter may choose to one day walk down.  “You’ve found her people,” Ibby laughed.  I have and a formidable group of women it is.  Then she put her hand out and said, “Welcome to the tribe.”  The gloom and doom and horror I have grown used to feeling whenever I have attended any group discussion regarding anything to do with autism was in stark contrast to the joy I felt attending Ibby’s talk.  I think I may even try to go to other Autism conferences as long as most of the speakers are Autistic.

Ibby makes me happy.  She is interesting, smart, articulate, funny, doing what she loves and is one of those people who lights up the room.  It’s just the way she is.  Were it not for deeply ingrained societal restraints I would have physically jumped up and down upon meeting her I was so excited.  I think I did bounce a little on my toes when I went up to her after the talk had ended.

But I don’t think anyone noticed.

*An addendum to Sleepovers, Staycations, Sixteen Hours and Other Words Beginning With the Letter S – it turns out Oliver and Trouble are the names of Angelica and Joe’s two cats.  Mystery solved!  I should never question Emma.  She is always right.  I have to learn how to listen to what she’s saying better.

My latest piece My Fear Toolkit published in the Huffington Post

Frustration, Self Injurious Behavior & Autism

To all who reached out yesterday – Thank you.  The feeling of  being overwhelmed that I was experiencing, receded and by the afternoon I was feeling back to my old energetic self.  Amazing how something so simple as admitting out loud how you’re feeling can elicit such an outpouring of support which in turn can transform all those feelings into something positive.  It made me think about how we – those of us who are caregivers and autistics should have a place where we could go to get support, ask questions, a place where we could come together as a community and just be, with no leaders or hierarchy, just a place anyone who wanted or needed could gather and reach out to like minded people.   If such a place exists, please let me know.

Hunter College, here in New York City, is hosting the 12th Annual International Conference in Disability Studies in Education, May 25th – 27th and I will be attending one of the presentations – Autistic and Female:  They say That’s Rare, and so many other things – with Elizabeth J. Grace.  I am very excited!

The program looks fascinating and if I could, I would have liked to have attended the entire conference.  Who knows, perhaps next year I will be able to.

On a separate note, Emma became frustrated yesterday while at school and bit herself.  This has been an ongoing issue, one that began when she was at her special-ed ABA based preschool when she was just three.  A boy bit her, on three different occasions, causing the skin to break and each time this happened we would get a call from the school telling us that this same child had bitten her, that they were doing everything they could to monitor him, but that while it obviously hurt her, no real harm had been done.  Not long after that, Emma began biting herself.

It is horrifying to witness your small child, in such obvious pain, attempting to manage their upset by harming themselves.  Emma bites her arm or hand or in extreme cases will punch herself hard in the face.  We have used a variety of techniques hoping to stop the behavior, but so far none have worked, though she does not bite herself as much as she once did and rarely punches herself in the face any more.

A few weeks ago I reached out to a couple of Autists I know asking for their suggestions and one had some great ideas about things that might help, such as chewy tubes, which we have bags of and had all but forgotten, and having a favorite stuffed animal with her. I decided to ask Emma whether she would like to have a stuffed animal to take with her to school, and while she declined, she did say she wanted to have two chewy tubes in her backpack.  We discussed how when she becomes frustrated she can chew on the chewy tube and Emma nodded and shouted, “I’m so frustrated!” then grabbed the chewy tube I was holding and jammed it into her mouth, gnawing at it furiously.  I took her response as a positive sign.

I don’t know if anyone at her school remembered to remind her about her chewy tubes or if in the heat of the moment they were forgotten, but we will continue to remind Emma that the chewy tubes are with her and she can bite them instead of herself.

Telling her, “We do not bite!”  or “You may not hurt yourself!” while well meaning and said with good intentions has NOT proven remotely helpful.

To read my latest piece, Emma’s New Shoes, in the Huffington Post, click ‘here

And if you haven’t already done so, do vote for Emma’s Hope Book by clicking this ‘link‘ and clicking on the “like” button opposite Emma’s Hope Book.

Amanda Boxtel

Last night Richard and I went to a launch party here in New York City of Ekso Bionics with a live demonstration by Amanda Boxtel.  Amanda was in a skiing accident over 20 years ago, which left her a paraplegic.  For more than two decades Amanda has lived her life from a wheel chair.

This photo is out of focus and does not do Amanda justice.

Amanda demonstrates the power of Ekso Bionics

This quote is from Amanda’s website.

“Imagine wanting something so badly for years and years—fluctuating between acceptance of what is and hope for something better.  Imagine if that one thing you longed for is to stand tall with your legs supporting your full body weight, and then taking your first step.”

When we took Emma to Costa Rica for her first stem cell treatment, fluid seeped from her spine into her blood stream.  Suddenly she was in excruciating pain and Richard and I were terrified.  Amanda wrote me and her letter, one of many I have kept, was a calm voice of strength and reassurance.  Amanda has been to India six times for stem cell treatments.  She is an inspiration and source of hope for all.

Watching Amanda stand and then walk last night was a visual confirmation of what is possible in this world, if we never give up.  I think of Amanda often as I work with my daughter, Emma. Writing is difficult for Emma, it does not come easily.  But then walking does not come easily to Amanda either and yet she has never allowed that to slow her down.

Emma’s writing from this morning

For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism, go to:   www.EmmasHopeBook.com

Taking a Stand

This blog is about Emma.  It has always been about Emma.  Every now and again I post something about statistics or links to other children or adults who have been diagnosed with autism, the occasional news item, but for the most part, Emma is the star of this blog.  Today however, I feel compelled to write about the children and adults with disabilities who have been institutionalized.  The defenseless portion of our population who do not have parents or families to advocate and defend them for whatever reason.

Yesterday I happened upon an article in the New York Times about a 13 year old boy with autism who was sat on and ultimately crushed to death in the back seat of a van while being taunted, “I could be a good king or a bad king,” by a state employee who was hired to care for the child.  The article goes on to describe in graphic detail the abuse that occurred, the repeated hospitalizations, the horrifying conditions of the Oswald D. Heck Developmental Center,  a state run home for children and people with disabilities near Albany, New York.  An institution which routinely hires high school drop outs, people with criminal records, histories of drug and alcohol abuse and little or no training to care for our most vulnerable.

It is difficult not to console oneself, while reading such an article, with the idea that this was an isolated incident or at least a problem within this specific institution.  Sadly it is not.  Another article, also in the New York Times, which ran a few months ago about the systematic abuse that continues in several group homes was equally horrifying.   The BBC ran a piece just last week on the terrifying cruelty and abuse in homes caring for the disabled in the UK.  In fact, once I began digging around it wasn’t hard to find countless articles about rampant abuse taking place in group homes, state run facilities, institutions, privately run group homes all for the disabled, those diagnosed with autism, downs syndrome, cerebral palsy and the like.  What was incredible was the amount of actual video footage of the abuse, testimony from witnesses, doctors, nurses, hospital records, irrefutable proof and yet it continues.

We talk about torture, the horrors of genocide all in the context of war and yet we have people, here in America, doing unspeakable things to our disabled population and it goes unnoticed, in fact it is even condoned within many of these homes.  There is a “keep your eyes open and your mouth shut” policy at many of these homes.  We have a burgeoning population of defenseless, often non-verbal children and adults who are being raped and tortured.  If you object to the use of the words “rape and torture” consider this from the NY Times on March 12, 2011 by Danny Hakim:

“At a home upstate in Hudson Falls, two days before Christmas in 2006, an employee discovered her supervisor, Ricky W. Sousie, in the bedroom of a severely disabled, 54-year-old woman. Mr. Sousie, a stocky man with wispy hair, was standing between the woman’s legs. His pants were around his ankles, his hand was on her knee and her diaper was pulled down.  The police were called, and semen was found on the victim. But the state did not seek to discipline Mr. Sousie. Instead, it transferred him to work at another home.”

The BBC report on May 31, 2011 – “…Wayne restrained Simone, an 18-year-old who suffers from a genetic abnormality, by pinning her down under his chair for half an hour. Another member of staff holds her in a headlock, despite the fact she shows no signs of resistance.

The footage also shows Simone being subjected to two cold showers in a single day with staff pouring mouthwash and shampoo over her she screams, saying: “It’s cold mum”.

That afternoon, with temperatures just above freezing, Wayne is filmed taking Simone into the garden and pouring a jug of cold water over her head. He only relents and takes her inside after she lies listlessly on the ground, convulsing with cold.

When Simone is unable to sleep that night staff repeatedly pour cold water over her in the corridor, before holding a cold fan to her face.

The day ends with staff dragging her into her room and forcing her to take a paracetamol while Graham, another member of staff, plays the role of German commandant shouting: “Nein, nein, nein”. Despite the serious nature of the abuse Kelvin, a senior nurse, refuses to intervene.”

We say things like – “never again,” we want to believe we learn from our mistakes, from history and yet there is no evidence to support this kind of thinking.  The population that is being abused in all of these reports are our most vulnerable – children and adults who cannot speak out, who cannot accuse, who cannot defend themselves.  And yet it goes on.  There is nothing new about any of this.  The reports of abuse are haunting, horrible, beyond description, the brutality, the sadism, the cruelty is inhuman, all the more so because it is children and adults with disabilities being victimized.

And yet it continues.

What can any one of us do?

We can begin by confronting and honoring what is happening by speaking out against it, by demanding the politicians we vote into office are aware and are willing to take a stand.  This is not a problem that will go away because we want it to, because it’s too painful to read about.  It will only end when we decide it deserves our attention as much as the populations of various countries we have chosen to defend by sending our troops to.

How We Communicate

Recently someone commented on the “I Believe” post.  She wrote:  “She is communicationg to you, she communicates to you ever day. With her body language, with her expression, with her unusual use of language.”

I loved receiving this comment (I love receiving all the comments people have sent over the past year, they are always informative, interesting and often provocative), which adds to the earlier discussion in the post “Embrace-ness-ness” regarding how we view intelligence in non-verbal people and what that means.

As I have mentioned before, my father spent the last 15 years of his life in a wheelchair and though he was cognitively unimpaired, he was treated differently, almost as though people thought his brain had somehow been damaged too.  His accident and disability profoundly altered my view of the world.  I came to see first hand the pain and suffering caused by people’s responses and misunderstandings of his disability.

When we are out in public with Emma, she is a free spirit.  I have never seen her look in judgement at another human being, no matter how deranged they may appear.  Emma will sit next to a homeless person on the subway without a second thought.  If someone smiles at her, she will smile back.  Emma is without malice.  She is utterly void of judgement.  And yet, I see the looks of fear and confusion on the faces of those who see her and do not understand what they are seeing.  I see how their eyes watch her and then move to us, trying to find a clue as to why this child is behaving so oddly.  Many times people assume she is behaving as she is because of our parenting or lack of parenting.  We have been given well meaning advice from countless strangers over the years, people who feel they are, no doubt, helping us.  Yet, if we tell them she is autistic, this explanation is rarely met with understanding.

Autism is an almost meaningless word, at this point.  It covers such a vast array of behaviors and issues, it is no wonder people feel confused.  Many people know someone who is autistic and assume all autistic people must share the characteristics of that person.  This could not be farther from the truth however.  There are people who are verbal, non-verbal, semi verbal, highly verbal, but echolaic, verbal with perseverative tendencies, etc.  Some people who have received the autism diagnosis are highly functional, go on to have successful careers, excel in their chosen fields, others maintain jobs, never missing a day of work, while others cannot hold a job and will need assistance for the rest of their lives.  Meeting one person with autism is like meeting one person anywhere.  If that person is not able to communicate in a language we know, it doesn’t mean they can’t communicate or do not want to.

We all want to communicate.  Perhaps the single most destructive belief about autism is that those who are diagnosed with it have little desire for human interaction.  Just because they may not be able to communicate their desires in ways we are used to, does not mean the desire doesn’t exist.  If I want to communicate with Emma I just have to spend time with her.  She communicates with me in a wide variety of ways constantly.

Emma with her beloved balloon string – recovered from the laundry hamper.

For more on Emma’s balloon string and her journey through a childhood of autism go to:  www.EmmasHopeBook.com


For those of you who have not viewed the interview of Carly Fleishman, you should:  Autistic Teen Finds Inner Voice. (There is a 15 second ad that you must cope with, but the interview is well worth the annoyance of the ad.)

The clip is an amazing example of a severely autistic non-verbal teenager who finds a way to “speak” by typing on her computer.  What occurs as a result is profound with far-reaching implications for all of us.

A follower of  EmmasHopeBook, an English teacher of 7th graders, and I have been engaged in a “cyber conversation” regarding disabilities, “tolerance”, how we view intelligence etc.  She wrote me this morning regarding her english class:  “We’ve also been discussing the semantics of disability (and earlier in the year, racism and homophobia). The word “tolerance” has come up in class, and the kids actually hypothesized and agreed that it’s just not strong enough for the world they want to live in. There were some strong voices saying that they feel it is actually negative! One girl said that, to her, to “tolerate” someone or something means “OK, I’ll put up with this if I have to, not because I want to,” and then they universally decided that the ultimate goal they should be pursuing and activating for is something like equality, or, as the same girl put it “It’s something like ’embrace-ness-ness.’ ”

I love this.  We live in a world, populated by people whom we often judge.  We tend to come up with ideas about other people and the lives they live.  The unknown can be uncomfortable and so we draw conclusions and then behave as though these conclusions were facts.  Someone cannot speak and we conclude they’re intelligence is lower than those who can.  A person is disabled and we conclude their intelligence is disabled as well.  How can we embrace what we do not know or understand?  It can be a frightening prospect and yet it is the key to a better understanding.

When my father finally succumbed to a wheel chair, having had a debilitating accident in his 40’s he was treated differently.  People condescended to him, they felt sorry for him.  He was a proud man, who at one time was extremely athletic.  Being in a wheel chair changed him.  He became despondent, he hated how he perceived people were viewing him – with pity.

When we are out with Emma, people at first believe her to be a “normal” little girl.  But once they speak to her or are with her for an extended period of time, they begin to realize she is different.  Usually they have no idea what is “wrong”, but the way they behave changes ever so slightly.  Sometimes they’ll raise their voice or their tone will change.  They clip their sentences, they speak as one might to an animal.  (I have been guilty of many of these things, by the way.)  It is confusing to be confronted with a child who looks neuro-typical, but who clearly is not.

I wish I could inhabit Emma for a day so I could feel and know what it is to be her.  Would I treat her differently if I knew what it was like to be her?   I hold onto the idea that if I continue working with her on her reading and writing, one day she’ll be able to tell me.

Last night as I lay beside Emma reading to her, she began laughing.  I put the book I was reading down and said, “What’s so funny, Em?”

“Crash into foof!” she said, breaking into hysterical giggles.

“Did you do that at school?”


“That sounds like fun,” I said.  Emma was silent.  “Do you want me to keep reading?”


After I finished reading about our moon landing in 1969, I said, “One day Em, you’re going to be able to read and write.  I can’t wait to read and hear what you’ll say.”

“Go to the computer with Mommy and Daddy,” Emma said.

“Is it easier to communicate on the computer?” I asked.

“Yes. Computer with Mommy and Daddy,” she said.

“Okay.  We’re going to work on that,” I said.

“Mommy sing song?”

“Right.  I’ll sing you a lullabye.”  After I sang her a few songs I hugged her.  “I love you Em.”

“So much,” she said.


For more on Emma’s journey through a childhood of autism go to:  EmmasHopeBook

From Emma’s Granma

“I have four grandchildren, and the youngest is Emma.  She is a beautiful blond with blue eyes and a sparkling smile, she skis like a pro, she swims, she climbs the climbing wall at the rec center, she balances on the back of the sofa (while her granma shudders in fear that she might fall), she sings with near perfect pitch, and she is autistic.  When I was growing up such children would have been hidden away.  Anyone who encountered them would have avoided them, other children would have teased them, or worse still, abused them.

My husband spent the last ten years of his life in a wheelchair.  He told me that in social gatherings people avoided him because they didn’t know what to say to someone who was so obviously disabled.  Today men and women in wheelchairs compete at the Olympics.  They race on prosthetic limbs, those who are blind ski with Challenge Aspen.  I have a friend, one of the founders of Challenge Aspen, who skis in a specially designed chair.  She tells me that she skis better now in that chair than she did eighteen years ago when she had full use of her limbs.

Scientific research, skilled therapists and loving families have helped all these people achieve a potential that would have been denied them eighty years ago when I was born. These people are actually lucky because their disabilities are visible, and so scientists and skilled therapists have been funded with the means to investigate all avenues that might lead to improving their lives.

Autism is not visible, but inside of Emma there is also a person yearning to be understood, to be able to communicate, to tell us of her fears, her frustrations, her desires.  She too wants to be  treated with understanding and compassion.

In the family room we have a stage with a curtain.  Emma loves to draw back the curtain and sing and, as her father says, strut her stuff as if to an enormous audience.  One day she too will reach her potential.  One day she will step down from that stage, her inner person will emerge, and she will still sing like an angel, but also she will speak with clarity, she will laugh with us, play games with other children and be able to step off into the future with confidence.

Such is our hope.

But even if none of that turns out exactly as we might wish, one thing is certain, wherever she goes, however she behaves, she will walk in beauty, surrounded with love.”

To see a survey that my mother participated in on the effects of autistic grandchildren and their grandparents, go to:  http://www.iancommunity.org/cs/ian_research_reports/ian_research_report_apr_2010