I am guilty. Probably most mothers of autistic children are guilty, too. We talk about our children and their difficulties and then add something to the effect, “but K wouldn’t be who he/she was without their autism.” Pretending that having autism is somehow okay. Almost sounding desirable. But, it is not. Autism is not okay and I, for one, am tired of pretending that it is okay in any way, shape or form.
Too often I have heard the old cliche that adversity builds character. That I should be somehow thankful that my child is lucky to be learning character building at such a young age. Well, thank you very much, but, my child has enough character already. He doesn’t need any more. And he certainly doesn’t need life’s hard lessons to be pounding at his door at such an early age. Frankly, it isn’t fair that his door is pounded on while others just get a tap. Which brings me to my next point. Life isn’t fair.
Growing up, I remember getting the “you weren’t born with a fairness guarantee in life” spiel from my parents. Well, fairness applies if you have a level playing field. Autism distorts that field. Everything that neuro-typical persons know about the game is understood and is defined in the play book. For the person who has autism, there is no rule book and there is no team. There is just them standing on the sidelines trying to “understand” the game. Like all parents everywhere, I don’t expect that everything should or will be fair for my son. I just want him to be able to have the chance to get into the fairness game and I want the same rules that other kids play by to apply to him.
I also think that the old saying “life is not easy” when applied to our kids is wrong. Yes, life is not easy, but, who says life should have to be so hard? A middle of the road approach by society to my child would be nice.
But, what I hate the most is the kind of unspoken belief that children who are “different” are put on this earth to teach others character traits such as compassion. While it is wonderful that some (and I say some) children will be able to recognize and develop these traits as a result of knowing my son, it is not his primary purpose in life to help others gain their moral grounding. His purpose is to bring his best person forward both in society and within himself. And autism robs him of his whole self and his ability to achieve his full potential. Even if the only thing missing from his full potential is just to be able to tell and understand a joke.
Autism is neither my son’s friend nor mine. It is heartless and cruel. Autism has no compassion and shows no remorse. It just walks in our door and into our lives and makes itself at home. It is an outsider who doesn’t belong and I refuse to forget that. Just as we would fight off an intruder trying to get past our front door, so too must we fight autism. We must find the causes, discover better treatments and offer more to those who find autism at their front door. And as hard as autism tries to fully push open our door, I will continue to try and shut it out. I will NOT let autism take my son and I will not let it take me. Until my last breath I will push against that door trying to keep autism and all of its idiosynchrocies at bay. It is a fight that I intend to win.
About the Author: Cheryl Dieter is the mother of five children. Her two youngest boys are adopted and both have an autism diagnosis. Cheryl is a former newspaper reporter, columnist, and has read her stories for Iowa National Public Radio. She is a regular contributor to Lifestyle Magazine and has been published in various magazines. Read Cheryl’s latest story in the book Chicken Soup For The Adopted Soul.
Photo courtesy Sarah Cook, cookwire.blogspot.com/
You May Also Like
- Coping with the Life You Never Imagined
- I Do Not like Being a Special Needs Parent and That’s OK
- Handling Your Child’s Diagnosis: Six Things Parents Should Do For Themselves
- A Complete Guide on Positive Behavior Support for Children With Special Needs
- Family Chat: Improving Lives with Positive Behavior Support (PBS)
- 8 Ways to be a Great Advocate For Your Family Member With Special Needs
- How to Get Free From Unrealistic Expectations of Motherhood
- Father’s Perspective: Raising a Child with Special Needs
- Daddy Loves You: A Reminder for Daddies of Children with Special Needs
- Being United, Pampering, and Taking Care of Ourselves
- Avoiding the Power Struggles with Your Child
- “Coping” One Day at a Time
- Welcome to Holland
This post originally appeared on our March/April 2012 Magazine