“The greatest tragedy that can befall a child with autism is to be surrounded by adults
who think it’s a tragedy.”
That’s my most widely quoted affirmation, and while it draws overwhelming agreement, it also brings out the 1% naysayers. “Well, it’s no blessing,” comes the retort, to which I reply that not everything in this life has to be a duality.
Almost decade ago, I heard from a reader who said she “dismissed” my attitude toward my son’s autism as “crazy” while defining autism as a “curse,” and deeming “autists” “a lost cause.” Today, the lost-causers have lost a lot of ground (huzzah!), but the attitude still lingers in the recesses of even some well-meaning souls. An item recently came across my desk reminding us that the Bible tells us to love the lost cause.
Advice columnist Ann Landers famously said that no one can make a doormat out of you unless you lie down and allow yourself to be walked on. I’ll throw down a similar gauntlet: no child, regardless of ability, can be a lost cause unless the adults in his life give up on him.
The blank canvas has no means of becoming art without the artist. The racecar, however powerful, can’t even start the race, let alone win it, without the driver. The yarn without the knitter will never become a sweater; the bricks without the builder will never become a house.
Who is the lost cause? A child with challenges, but also with the ability and the desire to learn and grow, if only the opportunity is offered to him through meaningful channels? Or the adults with an “I can’t,” or worse yet, “I won’t” or “What’s the point?”mindset?
To them I say, why can’t you? Why won’t you?
Why can’t you choose opportunity over tragedy? Why won’t you?
What’s the point? The point is that no child with autism matters any less to the planet than any other child, or any of us vaunted adults. For every person with autism deemed a lost cause, it’s the general population who are the real losers, because we may never discover the unique insights and contributions that need only an alternate path of communication to come to light. Their presence and percentage among us grows with every passing day. We had better be interested in what they have to tell us and teach us.
I won’t say that autism itself is a gift. But the manner in which having a child with autism forced us to slow down and evaluate what matters in life, and how that taught us to see everything from an entirely different perspective—that has been a priceless gift. “Happiness isn’t getting what you want; it’s wanting what you already have.” That’s me, and that’s the way I feel about my son. It is unquestionably the greatest gift I’ll ever receive, and there isn’t a day that dawns for me during which I am not grateful, grateful.
© 2014 Ellen Notbohm www.ellennotbohm.com