Before I started blogging, I didn't really talk that much about autism, other than to say that my son has it, and to tell some anecdotal stories mostly meant to be amusing. And I started blogging, not with the intention to be educational, but simply to have an outlet for what was in my head. It turned out that the things I was saying about autism was not only something other autism parents could relate to, but was also informing the non autism parents about what autism actually is. I was educating people, even if I wasn't aware of it.... and even if I didn't mean to.
So, here's what I want you all to know: You may think that what you're doing is just venting, but really what you're doing is educating. Even if you're only reaching one person (who isn't in your family) you're teaching people who have no personal experience with autism what autism actually is. It's not Rainman. It's not a bratty kid whose parents can't keep control. It's so much more than that. And what you do, by posting your words and your thoughts, is teaching the world these things. People who never would have had any idea, otherwise, are reading what you say, and they're learning; they're learning what autism is, and they're passing that on to the people around them.
All of that said, I will now get to my point: I want to share with you an email I received over the weekend. It's from a friend of mine, who I call Cactus Pants. I've talked about him here before: my friend, whom I've never met in person, who lives thousands of miles away from me, who has never even met my child, whose children do not have autism; here's how autism blogging has impacted him. Here's how my venting, here on my blog, has changed things thousands of miles away from me. (I'm posting this with permission, and I've changed any identifying information):
So I'm at church, sitting behind the Smith family, Sharon is really nice, Bill is not a guy I am usually friendly with but he works for the same company I do, so we talk casually at church functions about it. Sharon homeschooled and is a very loving mom.
Ok, so then my friend Emily and her kids come in but sit in the back. Emily's autistic little boy has a meltdown pretty much immediately, so she has to take him outside. I felt like helping, but she had it. Eventually I guess she moved to the baby crying room, because at the end of Mass she came in to socialize. That's what we do, we all chit chat in church after Mass. So Bill leans in to me and says "oh great we get to watch this kid act like an idiot"....
Ok, first of all, he is 4... who the hell calls a 4 yr old an idiot in any circumstance? Ok, whatever, so I say "well, he's autistic". Then Bill says "yeah well that didn't stop him from stealing the baby Jesus from the play last year and running down the isle, it was a terrible embarrassment... and the parents just let him do it". This made me want to punch that asshole right in the fucking face, but I said "well, it's hard sometimes with autism," and he says "Yeah right, they just need to put a stop to it is all." Yes, that's right, there is a guy in Arkansas with the cure for autism that he is not sharing with anyone, but is judging parents as incompetent for not knowing it!!!!
So, I said "No tolerance forthcoming from you, Bill. We all can't be as good as you Bill! Come along kids before Mr. Smith finds fault with you and deems me unworthy to parent!" At this he muttered something, as if what I said was a joke that he was in on....
At home later, my wife says "man, you gave him every opportunity to not be an asshole, but he was not having it. Nope, he was determined to just ass it up." And I'm all, "This is a guy I rarely talk to, and THIS is something he thinks we can share a bond with, the inherent disdain for children with special needs?!!! What the FUCK!"
UGH! I am so pissed. I really didn't know what kind of absolute bigotry really existed out there for autistic kids and their parents, what an eye opener.
Thank you for giving me this outlet to vent.
Thank you for informing me about autism.
Thank you for the blessing that is you and your kids.