Autism Awareness Month

After reading this blog post from a parent of a child with autism, I felt compelled to do a quick post.

I am not personally affected by autism.  Aside from my professional life, I do not live with autism daily.  I do not have any children of my own and when I do have them, I can’t say autism is not on my radar.  Should that be my fate, I hope I would handle it with as much grace and acceptance as the author of the aforementioned article.

I need to commend Traveling Monkeys.  This mother stresses to readers that she is not searching for a cure for her daughter.  This is something I wish for every parent: for their own sake, the sake of their children, and for the sake of the professionals with whom they encounter daily.  One hardship of my job is feeling pressured by parents to “fix” a child.  I sometimes feel that parents seem to think we SLPs (and other professionals) hold a magic pill; if we just spend more time with the child, he/she will be cured!  Perhaps the root of that pressure is my own hope that I could fulfill this wish.  However, I can assure you (parents) that I try every “trick” I have, use every tool I know of, test out every new material there is, and use every form of encouragement I can think of.  I attend trainings and professional developments regularly.  If I did have said “pill” or some foolproof method, don’t you think I’d use it?  I know this feeling that parents have, and the “pressure” they put on me (albeit unknowingly at times), is strictly out of love and advocacy for their children.  I, too, love all of the children that cross the threshold of my therapy room.  I love them for their intelligence, their deficits, their quirks, and their adorable faces.

We all have our opinions of Jenny McCarthy.  I love her as an actress and comedian but I’ve lost a bit of respect for her as an autism advocate.  I believe she gives false hope to parents or children with autism: “if you don’t vaccinate your kids and just feed them a gluten free diet, they will be cured of autism like my son.”  Surely millions of people have forgone vaccinations and gluten/casein/etc and their children are no “less autistic” than the day they were born.  When I saw her on Larry King last year, heard her refer to “the autism years”, and comment that they were over because her son was cured, my jaw dropped. I may have even gotten a few strange stares from the strangers in the airport who undoubtedly heard my audible groan.  All that said, years ago I read her book “Louder Than Words”.  I was young then, only in college.  The book made me cry and I read it very quickly (and I am not an avid reader).  I felt for her in her struggle with all the medical difficulties she faced with her son.  Something she wrote in the book stuck with me; it’s possibly the only thing I remember from it, actually.  She was told by the doctor that diagnosed her son with autism that, “He is still the same boy you walked in here with.”  These are the most poignant words I can think of for parents hearing a diagnosis for the first time, be it autism, ADHD, an intellectual disability, or anything else.  That doctor’s bedside manner and compassion are something every health professional should admire and emulate. 

If I could stress anything to parents, it would be those words.  He/She is still the funny, sweet, loving, smart little person that you brought home from the hospital and would give the world to. 

Here is another great link from the article by Traveling Monkeys.  Lastly, I’d like to thank Traveling Monkeys for letting us into her world as a parent, for being honest, and for articulating what I can only assume thousands of people wish they could.

Okay, so this post wasn’t as quick as I originally anticipated…  I’m off my soapbox now.