Monday, November 17, 2014

Autism in the news

In the past couple of weeks, 2 events have the autistic world buzzing.  One was Jerry Seinfeld's revelation that he thinks he's on the autism spectrum.  The other was the tragic death of London McCabe, who's mother threw him off a bridge in Oregon.

My brain is so full and thick.  I'm not sure I'll be able to get my brain on this page but I'm going to try.   The main point that keeps swirling in my mind is - someone else's success is not your failure.

The idea that Jerry Seinfeld may be on the spectrum and is wildly successful does not diminish the struggle of parents with an autistic kid.  Or any kid for that matter.  Jerry's successes and struggles are his own. They don't effect you in any way (unless of course you're Mrs. Jerry Seinfeld or kiddos de Seinfeld).  Everyone has their own journey and their own struggles.  Jerry's success does not diminish your child's success or struggles.  What Jerry's announcement does do, in my opinion, is bring autism into the news again - in a positive light. All children are served when their differences are de-mystified.  


The idea that your child is non-verbal with a wide variety of struggles does not give you the right to take their life.  Period.  End of story.  London's story does the opposite of Jerry's.  London's story casts a heavy fog around being a parent of special needs kiddo.  "It's crazy town over there.  Let's move to the other side of the street."

London's mother (I refuse to use her name) blogged about the struggles of caring for him.  I have no visited her blog but I have read excerpts on news sites.  My immediate thought after reading her words is that she was not able to find London's specialness.  She was not able to love him the way he was.  She was not able to tell the world "Suck it.  This is my kid and I love him and I don't care if he looks weird to you."  She was not able to feel London's love for her.  And that breaks my heart.  For her and for London.  Because feeling love is so essential to human beings.

What London's mother did is not to be excused but also brings about another issue.  The stigma of mental health disorders.  She was clearly mentally ill.  One news story references is family members talking about her visiting her counselor and the need to increase her medication.  It made me wonder, if her family knew she had these type problems, why didn't they seek help for her.  Why didn't they stand in the gap for her? She had previously attempted suicide and posted a video about wanting to do so.  As a society we must stand up and say, "I will help.  I may not know how to help but I will try.  I will protect you and your children."

I do not mean to imply for one second that caring for a special needs child is easy.  I remember the time before B-man spoke.  We didn't eat out.  I was worried about what people thought when he melted down in public.  I was in a constant state of stress and anxiety.  It's taken a long time for me to learn to relax again.  It's still very hard to relax, it's actually quite a bit of work.  But I loved him no matter what and I could feel his love for me when he could not speak it.  You do have to make changes and sacrifices in order to do what's best for your child.  My other boys 'miss out' on some things like longer vacations or going/staying places as a family (we divide and conquer a lot).  But what we get in return is a glimpse into another world.  A world that is different but not worse than ours.  A world of wonder and beauty.  We have the joy of B.  My boys are learning kindness and tolerance and love in the trenches.  He is worth it.  London was worth it.  Jerry is worth it.  You are worth it.

You can read more at Diary of Mom  Expression is Not Existence and on Psychology Today in John Elder Robison's article Jerry Seinfeld and Autism (which I also found through Diary of a Mom - I'm totally a Diary fangirl)

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