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.