I cannot stop thinking about one of the Autists who commented on my latest Huffington Post piece. He is Autistic and is unable to function without the support of his family. He writes about his wish for a cure. He writes about his short-term memory, his “lack of visual-spatial and motor abilities, inability to interact with others in basic interactions, weak attention span, processing speed, reaction time…” He writes, “If I had skills and could really absorb knowledge, I’d have some kind of a career and I would do basic things without my family all the time.”
Before I responded to him I reached out to some Autists I know asking for their thoughts. Some people responded, for which I am grateful. Steve, diagnosed after his child was diagnosed, thoughtfully provided me with a number of links and introduced me to Amy Sequenzia, a non-speaking, Autistic self-advocate. Amy blogs for a wonderful community blog Ollibean and was profiled on The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism, Slice of Life Series (click on her name to read) and Paula Durbin-Westby the mastermind behind “International Autism Acceptance Year” also profiled on TPGA’s Slice of Life series offered some suggestions.
As I read their thoughts and opinions and words I felt a surge of anger. Because these are the people the neuromajority should be listening to. Take a moment to imagine. Imagine you were unable to do a number of things without the help of others. Think how you would feel if those people, the very people you depended on spoke to you with undisguised annoyance, or worse, outright contempt. Think about how that would effect you. You didn’t have the choice to walk away. You didn’t have the ability to leave. You had to stay because you needed their help. But their help came with a price. It wasn’t given freely. There was disdain, irritation and often you were spoken to as though you were dirty, damaged or contagious. Or perhaps people were kind, but full of pity and spoke to you as though you were a child. Think how years and years of being treated this way would make you feel? (Obviously this is not every Autistics experience, but sadly it is a great many.)
Now think how you’d feel when the coverage in the news and elsewhere about you, about the things that effected your life, were spoken without a word from people like yourself. Those voices weren’t being heard. Those voices were drowned out by all the other louder voices intent on making decisions about YOUR life and for you. How would you feel? I would be angry and then I would feel depressed and in despair and yes, I just might wish for a cure.
But as the parent of an autistic child, that cure idea has done a great deal of harm. It caused me to lose the ability to logically see things from a practical perspective. As I wrote in my reply to Billy – When Emma was diagnosed I was determined to cure her. I thought that’s what a “good” mother should do. In my determination to cure her, I lost sight of who she was. I thought she was hidden under the “autism” and if I could get rid of it, there she’d be, like a baby chick emerging from its shell. Only that’s not what happened. I couldn’t find a cure. I discovered, when I stopped looking, she was there, waiting for me to see her as she was, as she is. Will she have difficulty in life? Absolutely. Will the world treat her as less than? Yes, sadly so many will. Some speak to her as though she were an animal. I would do anything to have the way people treat her change.
I can’t make people do that, but I can try to make them think about their assumptions. And while I’m doing that I can appreciate Emma for who she is in this moment, exactly as she is.
I don’t have time to write more now. But this conversation, whether I just end up talking to myself, or whether I can get others to join in, I will continue, with the same relentless determination that I once pursued a cure for my daughter.