Tuesday, 11 November 2008


As most of you are aware, my eldest son, Alex, has autism. Officially he 'is' a high-functioning autistic with a co-morbid diagnosis of ADD (and I have the certificate to prove it!)

But that's not all he is. He is also:
  • just a boy
  • a 13 year old going through puberty (with all the associated angst)
  • a teen with an interest in maths and science but who hates english and social studies
  • a caring brother
  • very helpful around the house (sometimes! He is a teenager after all!)
  • intelligent about some things and very naive in others
  • a loyal friend
  • creative and messy
  • a loving son

However, he isn't:

  • a savant
  • obsessed by routine
  • ultra-tidy
  • retarded
  • superior or inferior to other kids (just different, but aren't we all?)
  • condemned to a life of being unemployable
  • unable to form lasting relationships
  • 'suffering' from a horrible condition
  • faking it just to get his own way
  • unlovable
  • incapable of loving others
  • the result of something I did wrong
  • going to 'grow out of it'

The only reason he has a 'label' of autism is that I wanted to understand how to help this child of mine who seemed to look at the world through different eyes. I felt there was something that wasn't being processed in the 'normal' fashion and when it was explained to me as "his brain is wired differently", everything made so much more sense. It has helped immensely in our interactions and with helping him to make his way in this often difficult world. But just because he is able to make eye contact, hold a conversation and give hugs doesn't mean he's faking it. Autism as a diagnosis covers a very broad spectrum of symptoms and as such, not two autistics are ever completely the same.

There are so many labels floating around in the world today and honestly, I think some of them are pushed for by the parents to explain away some of their own feelings of inadequacy (and yes, that thought has crossed my mind in relation to my own situation). Yet other parents seem to want to turn it into a battle of "my child is more defective than your child." It's not a competition people .. it's our children we're talking about!! The fact that my child doesn't have a physically obvious 'disability' doesn't make him any less worthy of help.

Like most parents, all I want for my children is for them to be the best they want to be and to be happy. So all I'm asking is, if someone has a label, be it ADD, autism, cerebral palsy, diabetes, muscular dystrophy, schizophrenia, depression, etc., please treat each person as an individual. Of course, allowances and accommodations may need to be made, but let go of your pre-conceived ideas and get to know the person underneath the label.

"Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle." (Plato)

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