“Can’t you control that child?” screamed a stranger at my daughter. “No,” I answered, “she can’t!” At that particular moment no one could control my severely autistic granddaughter who was having a complete melt down at the checkout counter of the grocery store. Why it was happening and how to make it stop was, like the disease, a puzzle that could not be solved.
More recently I joined the many thousands who watched the ludicrous incident captured on video of an autistic 15 year old and her family being escorted by police from a plane that made an emergency landing because the child’s lack of control was perceived as a threat to the comfort and safety of other passengers. I shuddered to think how easily that could have been my granddaughter and her family.
I also saw in this incident the disturbingly reminiscent campaign of the Nazis against mentally and physically disabled Germans. Unable to work or think as others did, people with weaknesses or social differences were seen as a burden on society. Little-by-little negative propaganda was spread throughout the country ending in the euthanasia of thousands in what were referred to as, “mercy killings”. Are we, in our ever broadening and inclusive culture of “tolerance”, in danger of becoming equally intolerant of the imperfect? http://bit.ly/1PGdic7
I heard of a first-time mother of a newborn who said, “I may not be an expert in mothering, but I am an expert in mothering Hugo.” That is the perfect sentiment of an autistic person’s caregiver. They may not be an expert on autism, but they are an expert in caring for their John or Mary. They know, better than anyone, the needs of their charges. With respect to that expert knowledge, concessions made to accommodate special needs requested by caregivers ought to be the accepted norm rather than the exasperated exception.
Autism statistics are staggering with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) calculating that 1 in every 68 children (1 in 42 boys) annually are diagnosed as being on the spectrum. The ratio increases each year with autistic children quickly becoming autistic teens and adults. My granddaughter turned 21 in December with a large number of other autistic children reaching adulthood alongside her. http://1.usa.gov/1i3UzKM
Most everyone knows what a twist of pink ribbon represents. It is the symbol of breast cancer awareness and survival. But not everyone knows that a twist of colorful ribbon decorated with puzzle pieces represents autism awareness. http://bit.ly/1HLBabp
It is hard enough being the caregiver of a person with special needs. Let’s keep an eye out for caregivers donning the symbol of autism and embrace the spirit of Delta Airlines, who demonstrated true southern hospitality, and helped the rejected and stranded family bounce back from their ordeal by graciously flying them home. Let all us strive to be more compassionate, understanding and willing to help rather than hinder those who care for the autistic.
“Truly I tell you, in so far as you did it for one of the least [in the estimation of men] of these My brethren, you did it for Me.” Jesus (Matthew 25:31-46)