Let’s Talk About It

Posted by on Apr 6, 2010 | 2 comments

Let’s Talk About It

I seem to have violated a social more here.  Evidently, and unbeknownst to me, you’re not supposed to talk about autism.  And in no way, shape or form are you supposed to laugh about it.  Autism isn’t funny.  It’s devastating.  It’s horrible.  It’s a tragedy.

I beg to differ, on all counts.

To begin with, I refuse to be quiet about something that has touched our family.  Pretty much everyone knows my husband was adopted, and the circumstances surrounding his adoption (it’s a pretty interesting story, actually).  I don’t hide the fact that I was married before.  I call it my “training wheels” marriage, and that experience helped me be the better wife and partner I am today.  It also gave me better perspective in choosing a proper spouse.  These are life experiences that have shaped us as a family.

But wait, you say.  Adoption and divorce are events, not afflictions.

Ok, I have terrible eyesight, and have had glasses since I was 18 months old.  David is the palest person on the face of the earth, and actually appears purple in some beach photos.  Jack has autism.

How can I compare bad eyesight and a lack of skin pigmentation with autism?  It’s easy.  Each one is something we were born with.  I can’t change my eyes any more than David can change his skin or Jack can change his brain.  I wear glasses and contacts, David wears sunscreen (and I use Photoshop on our beach photos), and Jack asks questions and looks at things a little differently than the rest of us.  I wouldn’t mess with his brain any more than I’d mess with my eyes (and I have some funky eyes that can’t be corrected with surgery).

Still, there are those who insist that “we just don’t talk” about things like autism.  Why stigmatize the child with labels?  Why put up additional walls?  It makes me think of the wonderful Neil Simon play and movie “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” where all afflictions and diseases are whispered.  Oh my, she has cancer.  Goodness, he had a heart attack.  Ooooohhhh, he has autism.

I argue that whispering about something makes it worse.  When my mother had stage IV breast cancer, we had several rules.  First, you do not capitalize breast cancer.  Do not give the beast any more importance than it deserves.  You will never see me capitalize autism unless it is part of a title or the first word in a sentence.  Second, you do not whisper about breast cancer, you roar about it.  I will not whisper about something – anything – that affects my child and my family so profoundly.  I will roar about it.  Here, there and everywhere.

I will scream it from the highest mountain, I will use the word in front of my child when I talk to you.  I will not shelter Jack from the thing that makes him different and special, nor will I shelter you.  Some people are uncomfortable when I talk about autism, especially with Jack present, but I maintain that is not my problem.  It is not Jack’s problem.  That is their problem.  Anyone who is uncomfortable about autism – or any affliction, disease, disorder, etc. – needs to take some time for self-reflection.  I’m not going to hit the mute button to make someone else feel better.

Autism is not a tragedy for us.  It is not devastating or horrible.  I won’t lie and say I wish my child didn’t have to deal with autism and all of the drama and challenges it brings, nor will I deny that we were crushed when we got his diagnosis.  But that feeling passed quickly, and we moved on.  And we keep moving on.

And you know what?  Autism is some really funny stuff.  We are a happy family and we laugh every day.  I want Jack to know that the thing that makes him different can bring him as much joy as frustration.  I want him to read this someday and know that the challenging times were good ones for us.

I want him to laugh, and I hope you do, too.  It’s ok.  We’re not whispering about autism, we’re roaring.

With laughter.

Autism. In your face.


How do you deal with people who think you shouldn’t talk about something like autism?

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