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Embracing Autism

If there was a cure for autism, would you use it for your child?

This question was posed to me recently by a non-autism parent, and it really made me think. Before I was an autism mom – indeed, before I was any kind of mom – my immediate instinct would have been to say “Yes! Absolutely! What kind of parent would choose for their child to have a disability?”

Now that I can speak with the voice of experience, my answer to that question is very different. There are some aspects of autism that I would get rid of in a heartbeat. When my son, now eight, has his meltdowns, the expression of anguish in his eyes breaks my heart. If I could wave a magic wand, I would give him the ability to communicate the pain that he feels during those outbursts. I would make the changes of seasons easier for him, I would make Christmas less overwhelming, and I would give him the skills to play with his little brother.

On the other hand, there are things that I would not change in a million years. Someone once told me that my son is very smart “in spite of his autism.” I gently corrected this person by telling her that my son is very smart because of his autism. His mind works in a very unique way. Thanks to his out-of-the-box thinking, this kid can problem-solve rings around the rest of us. He can do multiplication in his head, and this is something that no-one has ever taught him. He just figured it out himself. He sees patterns that are lost on everyone around him: once, when he was putting coloured pegs into a board, I literally had to squint at the board from a number of angles before the pattern he was creating suddenly jumped out at me. If he was given a cure for autism, that incredible way of thinking would disappear.

In the eyes of society, my son has a disability. The education system regards him as having special needs, autism is classified by the medical community as a disability, and the government has granted us a disability tax credit for him. And rightly so: my son definitely needs special accommodations. There is no way he can function in a neurotypical world without assistance. Although I believe he will be capable of great things as an adult, I see the possibility of him being unable to live completely independently. But as much as there are things that he cannot do as well as other people, there are things that he does better. He may frequently take the scenic route from a problem to the solution, but his route can cover a lot more ground, solve problems that no-one else even knew existed, and frankly, the scenic route often has a better view than the highway.

When this amazing boy with his sweet, sweet disposition curls up on the couch with me, wraps his little arms around me, and allows me the privilege of being in his world with him, I feel a love for him that is too big to put into words.

Would I ever want my son to be “cured” of autism? No. Because the challenges just make us stronger, and his autism is a part of the beautiful person he is.

Comments

  1. I know everyone has different opinions on this, but coming on the heels of Matthew’s meltdown on Halloween when kids much younger than him were enjoying themselves, when he wants to make friends, but doesn’t know how and invades others’ personal space, when he’s 12 and still wants to sleep in mom and dad’s room, yeah, I’d love a cure. I want him to be happy. He’s not. He knows he’s much different and he hasn’t yet learned to embrace his differences. I hope to God he learns that and then maybe he can be happy despite the autism. When I have to remind him twice a day to take his medicine when he’s done it every day since he was 2 1/2. When I have to tell him, no, it’s too cold to wear a short sleeved shirt. When he’s still wearing Good Nights at age 12. All those things I would beg for a cure. Because despite the fact that I remind in a matter of fact tone, not angry or putting him down, he feels inferior and stupid. He’s much too special and kind hearted to feel that way and autism is stealing his self-esteem. It sucks.

    • Oh, honey, I totally hear what you’re saying. As much as I say that I wouldn’t want a cure because George really does have some unique qualities that I wouldn’t want him to lose, those moments where I see the pain his eyes are when I come very close to feeling otherwise. I do not want to portray autism as a bed of roses, because I totally know that it’s not. I am just trying to put out the message that there are some aspects of autism that aren’t all bad. Matthew is a special kiddo and I hope that he will come to know that. (((((Hugs))))) to both of you.

  2. That’s perfect and amazing. When I read the question I thought “But who would he be if not for the unique person he is now?”
    A Sci-Fi show I watch did a storyline like that – alternate reality and all – in the new reality her son was “cured” of autism and she was over the moon. While you can understand a bit of it – all I could think was “how is she not mourning the loss of HER son?”

    Also – did you see the story that 60 Minutes did about how the iPad is helping autistic children communicate much more effectively? Pretty heart-warming; if only all parents with autistic littles could afford one.

    • As Maryellen points out, living with autism can be an existence fraught with difficulty. Some parents – like myself – are fortunate enough to see soe positive aspects to autism. Others don’t. I think ultimately, all parents of children with autism would love to see a world in which the painful aspects of autism are removed, but the essence of who our kids are remains.

      I *did* see the iPad story – amazing! I’m actually trying to win one in a raffle now!

  3. I’ve never really thought about it until now. We have a five years old son, DeShawn he is Autistic.
    If there was a cure I wouldn’t take it. I would lose the very essence of our son. The things that make him sooooo special and unique. I love him regardless.
    1. The hugs I get and the many, ‘I love you mommy.”
    2. How smart and advanced he is academically.
    3. The way he sees the beauty in everyone and is never judge-mental
    4. The bond he has with his dad.
    5. The quirky things he does that makes us laugh.
    The list goes on, but I’ll stop here

    The tantrums I could definitely do without, but I can live with the stares I get in public places. There’s the saying…………”I’ve decided that the stuff falling through the cracks is confetti and I’m having a party!!!!”- (Betsy Canas Garmon)

    • You sum it up so well. And I love the list! Your son sounds a lot like mine. I get the best hugs, and this kid is FUNNY! Not to mention that he has the most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard. Thanks for reading!

  4. http://jacquirose17.wordpress.com (Autism from a Different Perspective).

  5. http://jacquirose17.wordpress.com (Autism from a Different Perspective).

  6. You sum it up so well. And I love the list! Your son sounds a lot like mine. I get the best hugs, and this kid is FUNNY! Not to mention that he has the most infectious laugh I’ve ever heard. Thanks for reading!

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