Suzanne Wright's recent column about three million missing kids (you know, autism) certainly energized the autism community into speaking up about what autism is.
And the reality is that autism doesn't look the same, not even in families where multiple members are on the spectrum. My three, for all that they have in common, also have much that is different.
The good part of all this heated writing going on is that we're talking about autism and what it means in our lives. The bad might be that we're having a hard time listening to others.
As usual. Our vantage point is ours, and sometimes, in our desire to have our realities recognized, we fail to remember that others want the same thing: we want to be seen and heard.
Autism Speaks effectively silenced all those individuals on the spectrum last week. Mrs. Wright wasn't writing as a concerned grandmother, but as the co-founder of the most powerful autism non-profit. She made it seem as if she and her organization had the inside on what autism is and it wasn't about autistic individuals, but about the tragedies that are the lives of people dealing with autistic individuals. It was foolhardy, disrespectful and false.
However false it was, though, it doesn't erase the fact that while one side likes to peddle the autism as tragedy, the other extreme wants to portray it as a gift. Except that's not true, either.
Moderates, middlemen and women, and people who have exposure to the continuum of the spectrum tend not to be hyperbolic. And so they don't get a whole lot of attention.
Autism is a spectrum, both across the population and the individual's lifespan. Bobby is nothing like he was as a child. No one could have predicted just how different he would be. No one can guess just how much more he will learn and grow, either. His story is not written. Neither are my daughters'.
If we really want to help ALL autistics and their families and our society, then we have to be honest and open and accepting that autism comes in many flavors.
If we want society to accept ALL autistics and other disabled individuals as valuable and worthwhile and equal, then we need to treat them that way in our smaller community.
We should be able to reach out and care about everyone and listen to his or her reality, his or her story, and offer compassion, assistance where asked for and needed, and most importantly respect for each person's integrity, whether on the spectrum or off.