Monday, July 30, 2012

Is Autism a Gift?

I’ve just read several blog pieces by mothers who describe autism as a “gift”. One wrote, On the day my daughter was diagnosed with autism I got a gift. I got the gift of seeing God do abundantly more than I could ever think or imagine, over and over again, for the rest of her life.”

I understand the sentiment—mothers realize what they’re made of when they care for a special needs child. I have grown in so many ways since Ryan was diagnosed. I put myself out there in ways that were inconceivable to me Before Diagnosis. I would never have thought of calling a researcher or physician I didn’t know and asking them how I could help my child or what they thought of a new theory. I can’t imagine I would have ever had the guts to call a TV station and ask them to feature a story about my child, or to ask people to donate money. There are so many ways I have changed because of Ryan’s autism.  

But to describe it as a gift? I don’t think my friend’s child, who suffers from severe autistic enterocolitis that keeps him doubled in pain would call it a gift…nor would my neighbor’s child who suffers from multiple seizures each day courtesy of autism. Tell parents who have watched their previously happy and healthy children recede into themselves, or lost their homes and declared bankruptcy to pay for the therapy their child needs that they’ve received a gift. My son struggles to get a word or two out, he has gastrointestinal issues (although thankfully these are under control at present), and at times, uncontrollable shaking. Autism is no more a gift than any other lifelong debilitating condition. 

Reading this autism mom’s blog about how God gave her child autism seemed to me to be romanticizing what can be a debilitating condition, and reminded me of the people who think all autistics are gifted savants and have retroactively diagnosed Edison and Einstein as being on the spectrum. Frankly, if you believe in a god that would afflict your child with autism to teach you a life-lesson, then you and I aren’t on the same wavelength…not at all. 

My child is a gift. His autism is not.

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