Why is it that we are so quick to demonize autism — to make it the catch-all for anything difficult in our children’s lives, in our families’ lives; how is it that we are perfectly willing to assign to it anything and everything challenging and yet, when we find something beautiful, we say that is either in spite of autism or gloriously representative of its momentary “absence”?
From Typical, December, 2012
The search for a scapegoat is the easiest of all hunting expeditions.
– Dwight D. Eisenhower
Someone very close to me is fighting ovarian cancer. It’s awful. No one should ever have to live through the hell that she has lived through this last year. We’ve thrown our hands up to the sky and yelled ourselves hoarse in anger. She shouldn’t have to suffer. She shouldn’t have to fight for her life.
If she were male, she wouldn’t have ovarian cancer. Cause, ya know, she wouldn’t have ovaries. As angry as I’ve ever gotten, I haven’t ever once said or thought, “F@%k femaleness.”
I mean, that sounds really odd, right?
“Screw your gender because you have cancer.”
As a woman, I am far more likely than my husband to get a urinary tract infection or osteoarthritis, or to fight anxiety and depression.
I’ve had urinary tract infections, and man, they suck. And I do, in fact, suffer from anxiety. I carry it like a toxic gas, trying desperately to keep it contained until the days when it escapes, and when it’s at its worst and I’m fighting with everything that I have not to choke in the cloud. I get angry in those moments. At anxiety, at myself, at my impotence in the face of something that I cannot control.
But I never think, “I hate my femaleness.”
I just … don’t.
Even though it is indeed my gender that has made me far more vulnerable to anxiety than I might have been.
When my daughter’s anxiety has flared — yes, the very same anxiety that I just told you that I live with too, I have turned my anger on her neurology.
When we realized that she was experiencing seizure activity, I cursed her neurology.
When she struggled to grasp the most basic building blocks of math and reading, I blamed her neurology.
When she’s been moody and obstinate and frustrated and, well, perfectly, appropriately defiantly tweeny, I am embarrassed to say, I have chalked it up to her neurology.
Anxiety … is not autism.
Epilepsy … is not autism.
Learning differences … are not autism.
The moods to which we are all subject and all entitled … are not autism.
Are there challenges inherent in autism? Hell, yes. But these are not they.
Autism is her neurology. It is NOT any of these other issues which, if we’re being truly honest, are the primary culprits in creating challenges in her life. Do they often ride shotgun with autism? Yup. The numbers don’t lie. But just as we’d never think to damn our gender for the issues to which it makes us susceptible, it’s never okay to blame autism for all the other “stuff” which it, most decidedly, is not.
I heard a story at a conference I attended a couple of years ago about a young man who put a gun to his head. A therapist had thought that some off-the-cuff CBT (Cognitive Behavior Therapy) might help him understand his challenges, so she told him that his autism was a ‘bad guy’ in his head who wasn’t letting the ‘good guy’ (presumably his nonexistent “non-autistic” brain) do the things it needed to do.
So he put a gun to his head.
Because as a literal thinker, he thought it would be a good way to “kill” the bad guy who wasn’t letting the good guy do his work.
The ‘bad guy’ was his brain. His brain was him. Killing the bad guy would mean killing himself.
You can’t tell someone to separate how they exist from who they are.
It doesn’t work.
It’s not real.
He put a gun to his head to kill the autism.
– From What My Daughter Is Not Doing, September, 2013