By now I would imagine that most of you are familiar with the recent story about 50 Cent’s egregious misstep on Twitter and the autism community’s swift response.
For those not wholly
obsessed with immersed in our world, however, I offer you the thirty-second sound bite version.
@yung_raditz, one of 50 Cents’s nearly seven million – yes, MILLION – followers, tweeted the following to him ..
@50cent Release the album or get shot again
Mr .. um .. Cent responded by retweeting @yung_raditz’s tweet, but not without adding the following ‘jibe’ ..
‘yeah just saw your picture fool you look autistic’
In case that weren’t enough, he then followed up with a second tweet to @yung_raditz …
‘I don’t want no special ed kids on my time line follow some body else’
And so it began.
Holly Robinson Peete, responded by writing a fabulous open letter to 50 Cent.
In that letter, she wrote, “I hope you can see how what you might see as a benign insult-or not- was so randomly hurtful, immature and misinformed. Maybe you are naive or indifferent as to how many of your fans might be deeply and personally offended by your insult. At the very least-can you please delete it? If you’ve read your mentions today I am sure you have felt the wrath of autism parents. We are no joke. Neither is autism. We are not about to let you attempt to make “autistic” the new “R-word” under our watch.”
She followed up with a photo of her beautiful son, Rodney. “Finally,” she wrote, “this is my son Rodney Peete. He has autism. So I guess this is what autistic looks like? He is in special ed. He loves rap music and is a HUGE fan of yours. He’s a tremendous kid. He has to deal with so much trying to fit in. This isn’t helping.”
Firstly, I enthusiastically applaud Holly for her pitch-perfect response. She never ceases to impress me with her grace and her indefatigable dedication to our community. Basically, she’s everything I want to be when I grow up. Except famous. But moving on …
On the Fourth of July, Brooke and I headed to the mall. It was too hot for her to brave the pool and there was not a chance in Hell that she could handle the crowds at the beach. The only thing that could coax her out of the house was the promise of a trip to one of her favorite places, the American Girl store. So that’s where we went.
While the rest of the country was packing their picnics and firing up their grills, we were taking advantage of their absence and the subsequent (relative) emptiness of a place that Brooke loves, but can’t always handle.
That’s what families with autism do. We adapt. We go to places when no one else will be there. We turn ourselves inside out to find pockets of ease and peace – and fun – for our autistic loved ones.
The trip to the mall turned out to be exactly what they so often are – a roller coaster ride. It was wonderful until it wasn’t. It was fun and carefree until it was overwhelming and impossible to manage. It was sweet and girly and joyful until it was hard and painful and sad.
While it was good, it was really good. In part because as a family with autism, we appreciate the small moments in ways that I dare say typical families don’t. It’s one of the many beautiful parts of our particular journey. We celebrate so many things that the rest of the world would never so much as notice.
I was so overjoyed by Brooke’s happiness at lunch that I grabbed my phone. I wanted desperately to capture the joy of the moment. To savor it with her again and again. To prove to myself that it really happened. That Brooke laughed and played and had the chance to enjoy this place that she so loves.
I snapped away as she talked.
“My elbows are on the table!” She chided. “You would tell me in mad voice to get my elbows off the table!”
It was a script. I played my part.
Again and again.
It was utterly delicious.
She put the napkin on her head. She said it was a hat.
I told her it was the most perfect hat I’d ever seen.
She spun in her chair. She spoke to the waitress in Dora the Exploradora Spanish. She asked for her food by saying, ‘Meeeeee I have the fresh fruit and yogurt please?’ then looked at me and said, ‘I said, meeeeee’. Then she laughed and her laugh came with that smile that could power a thousand suns and I snapped.
Then she grabbed my hand and laced her fingers through mine – this is new – delightfully different and new! – a sensation she could never abide before and now she seeks. Again, I snapped.
The hostess came over. She asked if we’d like our picture taken together. I asked Brooke if she’d like that. “Sure,” she said. ‘We will do the Ugly Pear Lop Ala Kazools!’ And so we did. And God Bless the hostess, she snapped us just like that.
I looked at the pictures that night. I searched through them after anxiety had besieged my girl. I needed to remember the happy. I needed to feed on the joy.
And when I did, I thought of 50 Cent. And Holly. And Rodney. And all of our children and all of the autistic adults for whom this is so damned personal. And I thought, ‘THIS – this is what autistic looks like, damn it’.
It looks beautiful and joyful and free.
(And sometimes it looks tortured and overwhelmed and terrified. But that’s when I put the camera away.)
Autistic cannot become the next insult. It can’t. Its far, far too complicated for that.
And far, far too beautiful.
Thank you, Holly. Again and again, thank you.
As for 50 Cent, I pray that he and his nearly seven million followers are listening. There’s one hell of an opportunity here.