The Olive Branch.

The best thing to give to your enemy is forgiveness; to an opponent, tolerance;  to a friend, your heart; to your child, a good example; to a father, deference; to your mother, conduct that will make her proud of you; to yourself, respect; to all men, charity.   [Benjamin Franklin]

You have your way.  I have my way.  As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.  [Fredriech Nietzsche] 

One word.  Autism.  That word can stir fear, anger, community, pain, acceptance, laughter, isolation, and confusion, just for starters.  It all depends on your level of  understanding, patience and tolerance.

Whenever I tell a story here, there is nearly always a message I am trying to convey.  Sometimes, my message is received.  Other times it’s unclear.   Still other times, the message received is not the one that was sent.  In that last scenario, passions can be mistakenly stirred.

Words can be so powerful.  They can be a release and a comfort for the person who expresses him or herself with them in a time of difficulty.  To share written words with people you don’t know takes courage and faith in human nature.

People come from all walks of life.  Everyone has experienced something with great pain, joy, hurt and shame.  Each person’s experience shapes his/her perspectives.  Those perspectives will always be different.  Despite the differences, one can always find something in common.  Something to relate to with ease.  From that commonality, bonding occurs.  Friendships can be formed.  And just as easily, be lost with mistaken understanding or a divergence in a strongly held belief.

In the autism community, I’ve come to learn that there are people who strongly believe that acceptance of the differences in autistic people should be the focus.  As I understand it, their perspective is that autism makes them who they are, and they live full and rich lives.  In their opinions, years of isolation, bullying, teasing, self-doubt and depression suffered by autistic people could be avoided if others were just educated to accept the differences without hurting those with the disability.  I strongly believe that too.

But people other than me, believe in advocating acceptance to the exclusion of discussing the potentiality of a cure.  They say that by wishing for a cure, we, by necessity, minimize the worth of those who have struggled so valiantly to overcome their disability.  We insult them by wishing for that cure.

Can we ever reach a middle ground?  Somewhere, where I can advocate to remove the disability without minimizing the struggle of all disabled persons?  A point from which I can express my respect for those who live with the disability while simultaneously, advocating for its demise?

If one believes that the person inside the disability is inextricably intertwined with the disability itself, then no, I do not realistically believe that any compromise will ever be reached.  So then, that becomes the underlying question.  Do I kill off the person who exists by wishing away the disability they have?  Is it the same as advocating the ceasing to exist of a disabled person?  Or am I engaging in discrimination against those who are disabled by wishing for a cure?

With discrimination, I think of disassociation based on religion, skin color, sex, sexual orientation.  I am not advocating any disassociation of those who live with disabilities.  Yet, clearly discrimination, based upon disabilities, occurs.  I don’t want to foster that kind of discrimination because it would be directed at my own beautiful son whom I love more than anything in the world, just the same as others.

Am I actually saying that I would like the world to be without disabled people?  And would I?  Perhaps, in the end, what I am advocating is a healed world.  A world where physical ailment did not impair the daily life activities of the disabled with autism.

Advocating for the healing of people with neurological disorders is requesting a healing of a wound.  You cannot see the wound because it originates in the brain where the neurons firing instantaneously to convey information throughout the body is impaired.  It is no different than wishing that a person without a limb was given one.  That a blind person could see.  A deaf person could hear.  In each of those cases, when the disability is removed, the person does not cease to exist.  Their lives are enhanced.  They are given something they have spent a lifetime without.

These people would necessarily change.  There would be no more struggle.  No more frustration brought on by inability to do something when the disability got in the way.  But the memories of the struggles that took place during the years of disability would still be there, forming the foundation of the people they are.  The goodness inside.

Each of you who read here know how much I love my son.  I care for each of you who struggle with the ways autism affects our lives because I live it too, every day.  I respect each one of you who is affected by this disability and has found a way to cope and live a fulfilling and enriching life. I hope and believe that my son will find his own way as well.

I extend my hand to each of you with respect and an olive branch.  When you read my words, I hope you can feel my respect for you.  Please respect my feelings as well.  Every word flows from my heart with kindness and love.

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About solodialogue

I'm a lawyer and the mom of a 6 year old boy with autism. I work part time and spend the rest driving here and there and everywhere for my son's various therapies. Instead of trying cases, I now play Pac-man and watch SpongeBob. I wear old sweaters and jeans and always, always flat shoes to run after my son. Yeah, it's different but I wouldn't change it for anything. The love of my child is the most powerful, beautiful and rewarding aspect of my life.
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22 Responses to The Olive Branch.

  1. Well said, Karen. You make some very thoughtful points here — from both sides of the argument.

    But it really doesn’t matter which side of the argument you come from, does it? All that matters is that we respect one another and teach that respect to our children — autism or not.

    • solodialogue says:

      One of my favorite poems is the “Children Learn What They Live” and I hope that the little guy will learn by example and I hope more that I can set a good one for him! 🙂

  2. I hope you know that my comment on your Shades of Gray post wasn’t intended to be inflammatory in any way. I respect you very much and I love reading your blog; your posts are always so thoughtful, and I appreciate that a lot.

    I also don’t necessarily think wanting a cure for autism (or anything else, for that matter) is wrong or bad at all. My problem is with searching exclusively for a cure without thought to how to change the way autistics are viewed and treated right now. My feelings on whether or not autism is intrinsically a part of a person comes down to this: what does the autistic person think? I know autistics and aspies on both sides. As parents, we have to do the best for our kids until they’re able to express their own desires, and as far as I can tell, you’re doing just that!

    I also want with all my heart for people in the autistic community to disagree respectfully (I love the title of this post, by the way!). What works for one person or family might not work for the next, or one person’s opinion might be different from another’s, and that’s not a bad thing–in fact, I think differing opinions let us see all the different possibilities and considerations, so the sooner we can all discuss our ideas without being disrespectful, the sooner we’ll see real changes across the board, and that’s exciting!

    I feel very passionate about advocating for autistics. In addition to our little ones, there are many autistic teens and adults out there who are treated as if they are cognitively impaired despite evidence to the contrary, and I hate that so much. My comment the other day was meant to discuss my personal opinion, not to put down yours at all, and I’m sorry if it came across in any other way.

    From what I’ve seen on your blog, you’re a great mom and your little man is lucky to have you up to bat for him. 🙂

    • solodialogue says:

      Don’t worry about expressing your views here! I am open to receiving all respectful viewpoints and yours is always well thought out and motivated from a good heart. This post certainly was not intended at any person in particular but viewpoints I’ve seen expressed all over the blogosphere.

      I don’t like that people have this belief that autism means cognitively impaired either. People who express this kind of thing don’t research – they don’t learn and they come from a place of deep ignorance. But for those of us who are thinking and discussing, I just want us to understand each other and respect each other – even with our differences and recognize we all have each other’s best interests at heart. 🙂

  3. Flannery says:

    If only I could express my thoughts with the same clarity and eloquence. If so, they would sound very much like this.

    I’m glad you have that ability. This is very nicely written. I think we all want our children to be happy, healthy, and to have the ability to achieve whatever they want in life, without any added obstacles. No more, no less.

    I hope we can all find common ground.

  4. Lizbeth says:

    I always have a problem with the written word. I’m pretty blunt and to the point and oftentimes that gets misconstrued as harsh or uncaring. That’s oftentimes not the case. I think it’s the respectfully entering one’s space and trying to communicate appropriately is the hard thing to do. While it’s ok to disagree, it’s not ok to blast them.

    • solodialogue says:

      What?! You wrote an exceptional post on IEPs (with humor- very nice)!! I have never pictured you as harsh or uncaring – (just maybe that one time jogging on the trail with “fat Jesus” 😉 ). Agreeing to disagree with respect – that’s the key.

  5. Amanda says:

    In our journey I’ve met people who felt one should not try to change an autistic. While I understand where they are coming from, the truth is my son will somehow have to live in this world without my help some day.

    So, even though we accept him just the way he is, we insist that he learns to be as independent as possible and luckily he feels the same way about it too.

  6. I’ve heard a lot about this debate lately- I tried to write about it once, but my words didn’t come out this clearly so I gave up. 🙂

    I like your idea of a “healed world,” “a world where physical ailment did not impair the daily life activities of the disabled with autism.” You said it perfectly. Your love for your son is VERY clear on this blog, and I know we all love our kids for who they are and all that… but still, I would just give anything to have a conversation with A. Someday…

  7. Big Daddy says:

    I like to think I am firmly in that middleground. I love and accept my boy the way he is, however, I would do anything to make his life easier and more fulfilling. If that means taking steps to change SOME aspects of who he is, then so be it.

    Did I miss the mark again? My brain has gone to mush lately.

  8. Brian says:

    I’m with B. Diddy, just like any other parent, we want to encourage strengths and help them as much as they can. If that means staying off the phone at certain times, I guess so be it. Wait, not my blog. But the first sentence was good, right?

  9. Oh my dear, you are wonderful! I am honored to “know” you as a fellow blogger and look forward to continuing to grow our friendship in common faith and grace.

  10. NicPDX says:

    Hi Karen. I happened upon your blog today, and this post moved me to comment. I am not particularly well-read on autism, nor have I had much personal experience with it, aside from one 7-year-old boy I met while leading an after-school program for a brief time. So please forgive me if I accidentally step in it. 🙂

    It makes me sad that we live in a world so incapable of seeking out and cultivating the unique gifts within each and every child — but most especially those who are “disabled.” All we seem to focus on is what makes them different, what makes them disabled. We forget, or choose not to acknowledge, that their differences also enable them in ways we can only dream of. Are we too scared to ask what children with autism may be able to do that we can’t, because their brains function differently enough to allow it? Are we too scared to let their experience of the world shape ours, possibly bringing us to perceptions and conclusions we could never have reached without their help? Can we not create space in the world where these gifts can contribute in a meaningful way, instead of being treated like problems that must be solved?

    Homogeneity is killing us. The world is filled with unhappy and unfulfilled people who are running on hamster wheels just to survive, and who cling to their preconceived ideas like a drowning man to a log. Yet we are so hung up on homogeneity, on the fantasy of “normal,” that we discard any person who can’t conform. To me, autism and many of the other disorders that are being increasingly diagnosed in children are a signal — a great big flashing neon sign that humanity is on the wrong track.

    I think you’re absolutely right that it’s the world that needs to heal. The onus should not be on autistic children to blend. The onus should be on the rest of us to blend with them.

    Those are the shoulds. The reality, of course, is the excruciating decision every parent has to make. Do I raise my child to succeed in the world, or do I raise my child to be his or her fullest self? More often than not, the two are at odds when they ought to be one and the same.

    It’s not just a question that parents of autistic kids grapple with, either. I think it’s a question every self-aware parent has to face. Yet so many parents, instead of being brought together by the common experience of having to make that decision, let themselves become divided from others based on what course of action they chose. Me, I’m not sure which I would choose. Personally, I think it’s the asking of the question that’s important.

  11. solodialogue says:

    Welcome here, Nic! What a thoughtful reflection you have shared. Any way you look at it, the world comes with all its people as is. As parents, we all want our children to “succeed” because this means independence. Yes, there are a million ways adults and children, autistic or otherwise, must face the question of whether to blend or stand out in day to day life in hundreds of scenarios. Those choices shape who they are or will become. And, yes, I would agree that the asking of the question is the important part. I see it that way because it yields a self awareness that often, is not acknowledged. Thanks for your comment. It is appreciated. 🙂

  12. eof737 says:

    You share your journey beautifully her and I applaud you… Your son is a delight and even with the challenges, we see his spirit alive and energetic and loving. Olive branch right back atcha! 🙂

  13. Deanne says:

    Love this.

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