Monday, March 05, 2007

Awareness That Brings Acceptance of the Individual

As we near Autism Awareness in April, I have been thinking about the conflict I wrote about in Acceptance – Not a One-Sided Issue on my Amazon Blog last year. The comments made by Cal Montgomery in her review of Autism is a World and partially quoted in the referenced post have continued to haunt me. I was bothered by the following comments made by Ms. Montgomery:

“Once they're aware of the sorts of people we are they have basically two options: they can react to us in some special way (special ed, special workshops, special segregation, etc.) that takes our fundamental difference from them into account, or they can lose interest altogether and wander off to do other things. ***”

“I tend not to cooperate in awareness efforts. I am tired of being what Jim Sinclair calls “ a self-narrating zoo exhibit”, tired of being told by the neurotypical parents and teachers and professionals who deal with autistic people that my only value is as a sort of reference work they can use to help ensure that a couple of generations from now there is nobody like me on the planet.”

I thought about it again after watching CNN’s interview with Amanda Baggs and reading Dr. Gupta’s blog about the interview.

The problem with awareness may be that it is too much geared to stereotypes and the idea of a cure and not enough on an individual. Society tends to forget that Autism is a spectrum and not every person will experience it the same way. As Bonnie Sayers points out there is a variety of things to be learn about. Not every person experiences the same things.

Billy Ray is Billy Ray. He is not Amanda Baggs or Sue Rubin. He is not just an Autistic adult or an adult who experiences Down syndrome or bipolar. He is unique. He can’t be pushed into systems for the group, he needs systems that work for him individually. When that is done, he is able to enjoy his world and has much to contribute to it. It is probably the same with your child.

It was devastating for me to realize that Billy Ray didn’t really benefit from programs that others swear by. For example, a program that is often used by therapists and frequently praised by fellow bloggers was tried for long periods with Billy Ray on three separate occasions. That doesn’t make it a bad program. It has clearly helped thousands of children and parents.

I told a new therapist that we had tried that program twice and it didn’t work. He actually yelled “what do you want from me”. What I wanted was time to be taken to get to know Billy Ray and find what worked for him. I finally started documenting and trying to know my own son better, adapting his world to what worked for him as an individual and to communicate him as he is to others.

If awareness is to make a real difference it must see the individual not just the group. We are asked to allow for diversify in many types of peoples in our society. It is time to recognize diversity and VALUE in children and adults who experience special needs too. We need to advocate for flexibility in community and in services so that everyone can benefit.

Until next time,
Peggy Lou Morgan
Blogs: Amazon Author Connect, Parenting a Complex Special Needs Adult and Lighthouse Parents
Websites: Parenting Your Complex Child and Lighthouse Parents
Club Mom Articles
Parenting Your Complex Child Yahoo Group

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