Autism Cure: What if there was an antidote?
I have many friends whose children have autism. We find each other, like you ferret out the fun, snarky ones at the party who you end up talking to all night. We understand each other’s plight, even though each circumstance is unique. We’ve been on spectrum baseball teams together, hung out, hosted social skills groups. For the uninitiated, a social skills group is a gaggle of kids on the spectrum getting together with a professional facilitator to learn social skills most of us take for granted. It is often hilarious. Parents of children with autism are like a divorce support group where everyone eventually learns the journey each group member took to get to the place where they are now with their child and family. Everyone is at a different stage. You discover what each other’s child’s peculiar autistic quirks are. You figure out who the adulterers are and who broke up over money. You size people up. Oh, their son is more skilled at language than mine. You feel grateful for your own situation. OMG. I would die if my child made those noises. At least mine doesn’t shriek at the sight of flies. Mostly, you are happy to be in a safe environment around other people who won’t judge or pity you or your child. I mean, why would they?
I’ve noticed that parents of children on the autism spectrum seem to fall into one of two categories: (1) those who are plagued by the unknown cause of their child’s autism; and (2) those who aren’t. I fall into the latter category. I could honestly not care less why my 10YO son has autism. Knowing the cause isn’t going to affect how he lives his life. I don’t care if it’s genetic and I passed it on to him and my children could pass it on to their offspring. I don’t care if a drug I ingested while pregnant caused it. I don’t care if mercury or vaccines caused it (Fuck off Jenny McCarthy- they didn’t). I don’t care if he picked it up from one of the kids at daycare like a communicable disease. I don’t care if he fell prey to a voodoo curse that I could cure with chicken blood. I genuinely don’t care. Let me go out on a limb and say, “Let’s not cure people of anything with chicken blood. Ewww.”
Not only do I not care why Devlin has autism, I am also uninterested in a cure. I don’t think he needs a cure or antidote at all. What he needs is understanding and patience. (Well, and someone to record all the insane and wonderful things he says. He asked me if snails were historical figures this week. I won’t make you google it. They aren’t.). To imply he needs a cure or to recover is to infer there is something wrong with him. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with him so much as I think there is something wrong with how we, as a society, approach people with special needs. It is getting better, but we have a lot further to go. True, people with special needs can be exhausting, but they force the rest of us to come up with creative ways to solve problems and address situations. They force innovation and a different way of thinking.
My child has autism now, today. I want to make his life as great as I can just like I want to for my neuro-typical children. I am FAR more interested in making his life as manageable and reasonable as possible. Of course you would never wish additional challenges on your child or your family, but I can say without reservation that having a child on the spectrum has made me a better parent and a better person.
I have a theory, which is no doubt not novel, that happiness in adults is greatly influenced by the number of good feelings one has as a child. I don’t recall specific instances of childhood happiness any more than I remember specific excerpts from a great book. What makes the book great is how the book made me FEEL. When I look at a photograph of myself at my 5th birthday party, I don’t recall exactly what was going on. I remember how pretty I felt in that dress and how my curls rivaled Nellie Oleson, snatch that she was.
I remember how I want my children, including the one with autism, to recall as many instances of happiness as possible from their childhood. Hopefully that accumulation of happy thoughts might act as a sort of vaccine to stave off, or at least lessen, adult hangups and insecurities. And that’s true for kids with autism and those without. People on the spectrum force us to be better, and there shouldn’t be any cure for that.