Don't Mourn, Get Attitude
But that's wrong.
A grief response to the death of a family member may be hard-wired in the human brain (although there is obviously a great deal of cultural and neurological variability in how such feelings are expressed). When parents respond to a child's autism diagnosis with grief, however, this is not a natural and innate response, but a culturally scripted activity.
A child who has just been diagnosed as autistic is the same cute little toddler that he was a few hours ago. Before his parents heard the word "autism," they weren't wishing that they had a different child. They didn't have a mental picture of some other imaginary child they would have preferred. So just what are they being advised to mourn?
We don't have to look very far to find that answer—it's all over the propaganda of hate groups such as Autism Speaks. Parents are told that autism is a devastating disability, that their child is a tragic sufferer who will never have friends or play sports or get married or have a job, and that their child will be a burden to them and to society for the rest of his life.
In other words, the grief that many parents experience has nothing to do with the difference between their child and some imaginary, more perfect child. What they are actually mourning is the difference between a truckload of ugly autism stereotypes and their child as he really is—a worthwhile, lovable young person who will grow, and learn, and quite possibly have friends, play sports, marry, and/or work. No one can accurately predict what a small child, whether autistic or not, will grow up to do.
This is my advice for parents: Don't mourn, period. Instead, get some attitude. Fight back against the stereotypes and the prejudice. When someone proclaims that they want to wipe out autism, they are envisioning a world that has been eugenically cleansed of a significant percentage of your own genes. Don't let them lure you into the self-hatred trap. Fight back. It's up to you to make this world a decent place for your child to grow up in.
I recently read a wonderful post by MOM-NOS, who described taking her son for an early childhood assessment when he was still nonverbal. She told the assessment team what a happy and affectionate child he was. When she was asked what she would like to change about her son, she couldn't think of much to say, except that it would be good if he could talk. Then her husband gave this response:
"See, the thing is," he said, "We just think Bud is perfect. You know, even if he's behind, he's perfect. He's the perfect Bud. And that's all we really want him to be."
That's awesome attitude.
Labels: families with autistic children