Years ago, when I asked my blind students what they would ask for if they got a do-over, not a single student said, "I'd like not to be blind." They accepted their blindness as part of their being. Their lives did not revolve around their disability. In fact, I deem that many did not view themselves as disabled. They all learned how to read and write, how to get around the city and how to navigate their special world. Well into our class discussion, I pointed out that not one had asked for vision. They all pooh poohed that away assuring me that, of course, they wanted the gift of sight.
So when I was watching Squawk Box last week, and the head of Autism Speaks, Bob Wright, was talking about having the mapping of the autistic brain done in 5 years, I was astounded! Would that lead to a cure? Could that lead to a cure? Could we make Greg normal? Had brain research progressed that quickly? I obviously had not kept up and vowed to read more after retirement.
Did I even explain this medical breakthrough correctly? What I got out of Wright's speech was that we are getting closer and closer to being able to effect change, possibly inutero change to the human brain. Unimaginable, right? Is that good? Am I crazy to even ask that question? Doesn't society need our autistic children and adults to help solve the myriad problems of the world? After all, autistics possess some unusual traits which I see in my son: ability to stick to a task to completion, superior memory, ability to read and chart complexities beyond the typical human, problem solving abilities to beat the band, superior coping abilities in a world not created for them, and more. Some are present in some autistics; others are present in others. Do I really want to live to see a cure for autism? Greg is who he is thanks to his particular genetic combination. He has accepted his differences. I cannot even imagine the alternative, that he is not happy. He has given something special to our family. I can't imagine Greg normal.
My husband thinks I'm crazy. He would take a cure for autism and change Greg NOW. I think I would take the cure if possible, but at what consequence to Greg and to our family? Sometimes I think that everyone we have met over the years has not only added to OUR lives. Haven't we added to theirs?
There is the waiter in the Mexican restaurant in Sedona who, upon identifying Greg as special, brought him the biggest piece of chocolate cake we have ever seen! There is the man behind the counter at bowling who, for years, charged Greg league rates to help us defray some of the costs of raising a special child. I'm certain he felt good about that because he always smiled afterward. In fact, he was genuinely interested in Greg which he showed in his frequent attempts to communicate with him. While on a trip to Niagara Falls, a waitress in Canada gave Greg cheese cake and didn't charge us. There are so many people out there who were especially nice to Greg over the years that I cannot begin to thank them all. I am not just talking about family and friends. Some people are those I can't mention because it might get them in trouble with the boss. On the other hand, maybe, just maybe, the boss also has that "je ne sais quoi" heart and would want to give that little extra help to a special child. You know who you are out there, people. You got the compassion gene.
So on this, Autism Awareness Day, I want to say that within our kingdom, we have awareness all around us. It is wonderful to pick a special day to bring attention to autism, but in our world, we feel that awareness every day. Thanks to everyone who makes time for autism. We so crave a moment of normalcy in our each and every day that we bake cookies with blue icing (credit to autism daddy's wife & Autism Daddy, Facebook) to give to our son's teachers. It's a chance to give back, yes, and feel normal, but it's also our own way of saying, "Thanks!"
Greg's Sedona waiter, spotting his autism, brought him an immense slice of chocolate cake! Some of us go biking in Sedona. The Squareskys eat cake.