Shh...Mum is Thinking

Sunday, August 06, 2006

This is a Keeper

I have found myself complaining lately: "Where are all the parents of older autistic children? Why don't we ever hear their opinions and experiences in the media?"

And then today on Michelle Dawson's Quicktopic board

I saw a link to this:

...and I thought. Yeah. THAT'S what I need to hear. That's a keeper.

People don't understand autism

People who are not fortunate enough to live with a child who is autistic have no way of knowing the exquisite reality we are exposed to daily.

Those same people do not have the opportunity to experience the limitless intelligence and inquisitiveness of autistic children. History is replete with examples of how ignorance and intolerance have resulted in some of the worst episodes of inhumanity toward others - reservations for Native Americans, relocation camps for Japanese-Americans in World War II, institutionalization of people with brain disorders. Society has become so complacent about such matters that it is regressing to a point where such reprehensible aspects of history are repeating themselves. We simply refuse to acknowledge it.

My husband and I have three autistic teenagers. Our oldest graduated on the honor roll and is an Eagle Scout. Our middle child is a nationally published poet. Our youngest spearheaded a project that resulted in more than 1,000 gifts being delivered to a children's hospital in a Third World country. In what way are they defective? Where are their diminished capacities?

Yet, not even the most basic of services - an education to which they are entitled - are provided without attempts to make the autistic so uncomfortable that these exceptional youth have to consider suppressing it, as if autism was something to be ashamed of. People don't understand autism, so they fear and vilify those with the disorder.

I am sure of one thing, however. Our children will have the opportunity to succeed and live independently as soon as others realize that autistic limitations are no different than any other person's unique situation. And parents like us are the ones entrusted with that duty. It is our job to inform and educate society. It is then their job to open their hearts and minds.

Rochelle Dolim

Sometimes I feel so discouraged and worried at the attitudes we see towards autistics in the media and on the internet...worried that these negative stereotypes are going to haunt my son as he grows up and that they will make his life much harder than it should be.

When I read something like this letter I feel heartened that there ARE people out there who are trying to share their hard earned experience, to "inform and educate", and who understand the "exquisite reality we are exposed to daily".

I hope someone else out there will enjoy it as much as I do. :-)


At 8:32 AM, August 06, 2006, Blogger Joseph said...

I often hear of parents who say their autistic teenagers made the honor roll in High School. Is this so common that it shouldn't be surprising anymore?

At 10:29 AM, August 06, 2006, Blogger Kristina Chew said...

Thanks for this----I've wondered the same myself in noting how parents on some of the email discussion lists I'm on don't say so much about their kids after their preschool years. And esp. if, like Charlie, they are not mainstreamed, still need 1:1 education, still working on talking.

At 11:03 AM, August 06, 2006, Anonymous Camille said...

You probably won't find many parents of Asperger's or PDD,nos 18 year olds because they would be calling their child's condition by another name. Studies of autistic adults often show outcomes like going to college, Michelle frequently quotes the Szatmari paper where people who would now be in their 30's I suppose started out as "kanner autistics" and a good percentage ended up going to college. I can't remember, that might have been totally without ABA and is certainly without today's "biomed".

I loved this editorial. What a great mom.

At 9:13 PM, August 06, 2006, Blogger Mum is Thinking said...

Joseph, I remember jypsys son made honour roll as well--and she's another example of a parent of older children who is sharing with us (yea!) I loved following their recent road trip, that was fantastic. Nah, it's shouldn't be surprising, but it's still nice to hear, innit? :-)

Kristina, I've noticed that as well. Sometimes I worry that parents of older children feel no one is listening to them(?) Or could it be that they're just getting on with things and too busy for the internet? I don't know, but I think their insights are important for us to hear, mainstreamed or not (my son, like Charlie, wouldn't be in mainstream class if he were in public school. I guess you could say he's in mainstream homeschool lol).

Camille, I know people online and in real life who've opted for a different label--ADD or ADHD seem to be popular :-) And also older people who, like me, were raised without their diagnosis being acknowledged by the family and who didn't know about it until adulthood. Many of us went to college, I guess because we reached a point being able to acclimate. Sort of. I bet there are a lot more of us out there than anyone could even guess!

It's not just the 'pride' bits of this letter I liked, it's the attitude of the mum. Sounds like she has a good handle on the situation they're dealing with. Kind of like that tee shirt that says "My biggest problem is your attitude".

I want be like that for my son. I really look up to people like this mum...I hope they know someone is listening!

At 9:34 AM, August 08, 2006, Blogger mumkeepingsane said...

I wish there were more parents of older children/adults with autism who told their stories publicly. I often wonder "what I'm in for" when Patrick grows up and I'd love to find some ppl with insight and experience.

At 6:09 PM, August 09, 2006, Blogger Mum is Thinking said...

Hi MKS...hopefully we'll hear more from parents of older kids as things progress. I get the feeling we may not have heard much from them simply because the stories of young children seem more urgent and dramatic. Sells more magazines and ups the viewer numbers, ya' know. When faced with the choice of a story with lots of drama and emotion (parents of young kids) or a story that's more down to earth (older kids) the media will always opt for drama, eh? heh.

At 7:40 AM, August 11, 2006, Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

Yes, I read this letter a few days ago and sent it to all my family members. It is terrific.

Doing The Autism Acceptance Project, I've been spending the last few months travelling to meet many autistic adults. I wish parents could have the same opportunity -- it sets your mind at complete ease. All of these people have taught me so much, and have so much to give -- so contrary to the disempowering information about autism that is so incorrect.


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