Tag Archives: Dr. Elizabeth Grace

“Will She Be Okay?”

“Will she be okay?”  This was the question that went unanswered for the first nine years of my daughter’s life.  

“Will she be okay?” I asked every autism specialist, neurologist, pediatrician and anyone else who seemed vaguely knowledgable.  This question actually had almost nothing to do with the child I saw before me and everything to do with how I felt.  I so wanted reassurance.  I so wanted and needed someone to tell me she was going to be okay, whatever okay meant.  Whatever world “okay” occupied, I wanted to know, really know that my child was going to be embraced and fully in the “okay” of it all.  

“Will she be okay?”

Like the children’s story about the baby bird who’s fallen from its nest and asks all manner of creatures it meets “Are you my mother?” I desperately wanted someone to put their arm around me and say those seemingly magical and reassuring words – “Yes.  I promise.  She’s going to be just fine.”  But none did. So on I went, searching, trying every therapy, remedy, every crazy combination of vitamins, diets, homeopathy, naturopathy, healer, energy worker, cranial-sacral therapist, shaman, neurologist, developmental pediatrician, speech therapist, occupational therapist who held out the promise that all would be okay if only I did whatever it was they believed would make her “okay”. 

“Will she be okay?”  

When we finally ended our campaign to cure our daughter, our campaign to help her accelerated.  But this didn’t happen in a vacuum.  We had support.  And the support we were given came from other Autistic people. In retrospect, had I known my friend Ibby, I would not have asked “will she be okay?”  Had I met Tracy Thresher, Larry Bissonnette, Jamie Burke, Jennifer Seybert or any of the other people I’ve had the good fortune to physically meet, I would not have felt the need to ask repeatedly whether my daughter would be okay, because I would have known she already was.  That question would not have occurred to me to ask, because these people, many of whom do not speak or more often than not do not speak, or as in Ibby’s case speak, but when stressed, is unable to, are living their lives fully and they certainly know joy.  Each of them has grown up in a society that underestimated them.  All of them have been doubted and had to prove their intelligence over and over to those who are unwilling to see the evidence before them.   

“Will she be okay?”

We, as a society, must stop forcing people we deem different or less than to prove their worth.  We, as a society, must look inward and start asking ourselves, not “will my autistic child be okay?” but “what can we do to accommodate Autistic people so that all can flourish and be included?”

In the end, that’s all I really want for both my children.  I want them to feel a part of a society that supports them. 

“Will my child be okay?”

She IS okay.  Right now at this moment.  It’s up to the rest of us to recognize this.

Em singing “Clumsy” for Ibby and Emily last night

Em's performance 

An Ode To Ibby And Her Tiny Grace Notes

My friend Ibby has started her own shiny, new, fabulous blog, called Tiny Grace Notes (AKA Ask An Autistic!  *Doing a little snoopy dance*

This is how Ibby describes her blog:  “The purpose of this blog is specifically so people can ask me things that may not come up on other blogs, which I completely recommend reading.  But let’s say you have a burning desire for the answer to a question that nobody blogs about that week?  Come here and ask it in the comments.  You can do that right now.  I might answer myself, and I might also remember that my friend told me about it a couple months ago, so I could answer from multiple viewpoints in conversation.  Also, I may be able to give you a study about it that isn’t insulting and eugenic and horrible.”

This is how Ibby describes herself:  “I’m an Autistic member of the Community and an education professor…”

Ib is an educator.  She teaches educators.  Not only that, but Ibby is patient, incredibly kind, nonjudgmental and one of the funniest people I’ve ever met.  Seriously.  (I love saying that after saying someone’s funny…)  I know Ibby’s blog will soon have more questions than she’ll have time to give, so I’ve already elbowed my way in there and asked her a question in the comments section!  If you want to ask her something go over there NOW and get in line, because I have a feeling that line is going to get pretty long, pretty quickly!

Just to backtrack a little…  Most of you have heard me talk about Ibby.  We met at a Disability Conference here in New York City where she was presenting last spring.  I wrote about meeting her ‘here‘.  It was one of those magical moments when you meet someone and you just know instantly, you just know there’s an immediate bond, an indescribable feeling of closeness that defies explanation.  That’s what it was like for me when I met Ib.  She flapped, I allowed myself to do a tiny little, tentative bounce on my toes, nothing that would call attention, (I was new to the sensation, had not allowed myself to engage in such behavior since I was a kid, but it felt GREAT!) and we hugged.

After that first meeting we kept in touch.  In fact, we began “talking” aka IMing each other once or twice a week and then we began talking several times a week.  We talked about autism, I asked her if I could ask for advice about Emma and she graciously not only agreed, but patiently explained and re-explained things I found difficult to understand.  Over time we began talking about ourselves more.  I began to talk candidly with Ibby about my guilt over the things  I’d done, the various therapies, the remedies and Ib told me more about her life.  This was a post I wrote after one of our epic conversations.  (I hadn’t asked Ib if it was okay to use her name at that point, so I didn’t.)  We found we had similar senses of humor, we went off on whole riffs together, and I laughed.  I laughed with Ib as I hadn’t laughed in a very long time.  As our friendship grew, so did my hope.  Now, if too many days go by and I haven’t been in touch with Ib I feel a little off, a little melancholy.

All of this is to say, Ibby is rare.  She’s brilliant and really, really smart, which aren’t the same thing.  You can be brilliant, but not very wise.  Ib is both.  So go over to her blog and ask her some questions, because honestly, I can’t think of a better person to go to.

Totally unrelated photo taken by Richard of Em at MOMA