We want April -- Autism Acceptance Month -- to matter, to help further acceptance and understanding of autistic experiences, happiness, and rights for autistic people of all ages and abilities. We will be publishing your Autism Acceptance posts and pictures all month long. If you want to participate, contact us at thinkingautism at gmail dot com. -TPGA Editors
A lady asked me what I wanted for my child (Bas). My answer to her was the same answer I would give if asked the same question about Bella or Lex. And that answer is this:
I want him to be happy!
The lady I told this to didn’t think that was such a good answer. As a matter of fact she tried to impress upon me in a very patronizing tone that my hopes for my son were “not very realistic.” Please remember, that this walking book of knowledge had no children (still giggling about that little tidbit). If you define ‘realistic’ as I did above, you will see that it is to seek what is achievable or possible based on known facts:
Fact: People make Bas happy
Fact: Being loved makes Bas happy (Bas is loved to bitty pieces)
Fact: Bas has a network of love and support through family, friends, and his schooling community -- and they all want him to be happy (and he makes us just as happy in return)
Fact: Riding horses makes Bas happy (he rides horses)
Fact: Books make Bas happy (he has many books at home and we go to the library and bookstore together)
Fact: Water makes Bas happy (we go to the beach and the pool)
Fact: Music makes Bas happy (he has more music than an iTunes store)
Fact: Computers make Bas happy (he has use of all sorts of computers and technology)
Fact: Learning and going to school makes Bas happy (we found an amazing school and he absolutely loves it!)
I could go on and on but there’s no point. You guys get the idea, and in all honesty there is one fact that makes listing all the above facts obsolete…
Fact: BAS IS ALREADY HAPPY! (so why is it unrealistic for me to want him to continue to be so?)
So Here’s The Really Big Question…
Why is it unrealistic to want my autistic kids to be happy, yet it’s perfectly all right to wish that very thing for my NT child?
Does This Make Any Sense?
To me it doesn’t, not right out of the gate anyway. Is it my autistic brain blinding me to the views of others? I’m sure quite a lot of it is -- my brain blissfully functions oblivious to the thoughts of others on most days. So, I’m asking … What on Earth could this woman be thinking? From this point on, I am only speculating because, as you know, I didn’t hang around to bask in her wisdom. Why would I? She had the bar lowered and her mind made up before she even met him! Because he’s autistic.
Anyway, I think I have an idea where she was coming from. Let me first say that I don’t think this woman was mean or hateful, I’ll call her … uneducated in the ways of diversity! Okay, now I’m gonna take a shot at playing devil’s advocate and let’s see where it takes us:
If one is of the ilk that believes happiness should not be a ‘goal’ in the life of a person with a disability; and that their days would be best put to use if filled to capacity with therapies, doctor’s appointments, and behavioral interventions; and that a realistic goal in life should be working as hard as possible to ‘get better,’ then you know what? … I think I can see why some unenlightened folks (maybe this woman) think that people with disabilities don’t have much to be happy about. And why they believe that we as parents are being unrealistic in wanting to see our children happy. And maybe, just maybe: They can’t conceive of the idea that someone with a disability has much to be happy about.
Bite Your Tongue (or theirs)!
I have a disability, or so they tell me (wink), and I’m not liking the sound of the life I described above. How about you? I mean we all have areas that could use work, disability or no. You know … Because We’re Human! So I completely understand that therapy, any kind(s), may be necessary and our family is certainly not exempt! I do feel confident in saying, however, that no matter the mildness or severity of our disabilities (or lack thereof) we still want to have fun! And, yes, you guessed it… we still want to be happy!
The truth of the matter is that at the end of my life, I don’t want to look back and realize that I spent it trying to ‘make my kids better.’ Because in my eyes (and theirs) there is nothing wrong with them. They are not broken -- I am not broken -- no ‘fixing’ necessary, thank you! Maybe some tweaking here and there (winking again), but we’ll work towards things we can accomplish and do our personal best! And the things we can’t … well, nobody’s perfect. It’s about each of us being happy with who we are as individuals. And while I see great things ahead for my kids, because that’s what parents do (still winking), none of it will mean a thing if at the end of my life they aren’t…
H A P P Y
A version of this post was previously published at srsalas.com