By Julie Obradovic
I came across a blog post not that long ago by a mother who was arguing that autism is nothing to be afraid of. Her point, if I remember, was that she had been incorrectly conditioned to believe that autism was a scary diagnosis, and that the people who put forth that idea were not only irresponsible, but also dangerous and misleading thousands of parents. In her view, autism had turned out to be an unexpected gift, and there was nothing she would do to change it. Or something like that.
The comments were all very supportive. These parents were angry with folks like me who had spent years sounding the warning bell, sharing our heartbreak, and calling for action. What were we so upset about? They wondered. And how in the world could we possibly contemplate changing anything about our kids?
By the time I read it, I was fully aware of this perspective. It’s the group of people who want to convince the world of a number of things: autism has always been around; it’s a natural state of the human condition; it’s a gift; there’s nothing that can be done; and there’s nothing that should be done. (Wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong and wrong.)
Rejoice in the diagnosis, turn on some Big Bang Theory, and raise awareness, they proclaim…their awareness, they really mean, which actually just translates as acceptance. Just accept it. Adapt to it. Accommodate it. That’s it.
I try to respect other people’s experiences with autism to the greatest extent possible. Just as no one can tell me what I did or did not live, or how I should feel about it, I do my best to honor the same for others.
It’s just that I don’t know how we’re living such different experiences. And I don’t know how they don’t see the profound difficulty, disability, and danger that so many families experience. Worse, I don’t understand why they don’t want to help those children and families.
I wonder, what do they think when a child wanders and drowns? Do they still seriously believe autism is nothing to fear? That it’s a diagnosis full of joy and wonderment and possibility?
Just recently, another little boy with autism was found dead in a pond not far from his home. I have stopped keeping track, but this is over the tenth child with autism to die from wandering just this year.
He died from his autism. Yes, technically he died from drowning. I get it. But you and I both know his autism killed him. It drew him to water, impaired his judgment and communication skills, and killed him.
Autism killed him. And Avonte Oquendo. And Owen Black. And Mikaela Lynch. And Jeremiah Conn. And so many, many more.