There are so many things I want to post about this week, but true to form I’m writing about what is presently on my mind. It’s time to select a new au pair for Ryan and this always gives me pause...au pairs are exchange students from other countries who come for a year to watch your children and do the cultural exchange thing. So far we’ve been very lucky with Ryan’s au pairs and they have all adored him, but I believe it does take a special person to commit to a year of caring for an autistic child, sight unseen.
Ryan is a peach—he isn’t aggressive and he is a loving little boy. But I know that autistic people are often stereotyped as being violent, and frankly, strange. It hurts my heart that someone could feel this way about my little boy.
But I know in all honesty that I would have been that person—before Ryan…before I knew that autistic people were just people with autism. Before I realized that many of the behaviors we associate with autism that seem odd, are in fact caused by physical pain that cannot be verbally expressed. Before I knew that doctors know very little about autism, and don’t much care to learn, that the medical establishment thinks odd behaviors and postures are just what “they” do.
|Hands over ears--I recognize this!|
It is precisely because most people know very little about autism and think these children cannot improve or even recover—medical doctors included—that I do what I do…blog, advocate for autism insurance reform, work with a non-profit to bring autism specialists to our islands…and I know somehow, someday I will achieve my goal of building an autism medical center here in Hawaii. Our children have a special need because of Hawaii’s geographic isolation.
|Autism Research and Education Center in Jerusalem...one day we'll have one in Hawaii!!|
But I also know that I do what I do solely because of Ryan. It would not have occurred to me prior to his diagnosis to involve myself to such a degree for any cause. He changed me in a profound way and I am eternally grateful for that. I am not thankful he has autism, make no mistake, but he instilled in me the drive to make things better for all people with autism.
So as I look over applications, wondering who will be the next young woman to pop into our lives, I am amazed at how many of these young people are interested in working with children just like Ryan. And not because they have a special needs child in their lives, but because even at their tender ages, they realize how it enriches the soul to do something for others.
I only wish I had learned this sooner…