In recent months, I’ve found blogging about Autism publicly to be as difficult for me as dealing with Autism personally.
I was raised in a military family. My entire life has been lived on military bases, seeing men and women in uniform, aircraft, ships, and weapons meant for battle. My grandfathers were in WWII. My father and uncles all in Vietnam. My husband has been involved in every military battle or operation, including several recent deployments to the Middle East, since first entering the military in 1982.
I’m as familiar with war as one can be without having been enlisted themselves. It’s become even more personal and difficult while our family has had to find ways to deal with the effect of war on my husband and our family as a whole.
My husband is currently in the tenth month of a year-long remote tour in Korea. While a year is an unimaginably difficult amount of time for a family to be separated from each other, we see it as a welcomed reprieve from war. He may once again be deployed within the few years left until retirement. But for now, he’s safe.
The way I’ve found to cope with military life, is to work to stay as positive as possible. It would be very easy to let the death, destruction, war, and worry, and loneliness bury me in despair. However, I have to function as a mother. And I think my husband appreciates having a house and family in tact to come home to.
I began blogging about Autism five months ago after I dropped to the end of my rope with frustration over how few people I’ve encountered show compassion and understanding for a child with Autism.
Even the basic manners I’ve taught my children that have stuck, like remembering to say “Please,” “Thank you,” and “Excuse me,” are rarely noticed. Surprisingly few adults respond positively to my son saying “Excuse me, Sir/Ma’am.” Instead, he’s met with a scoff, or stare of contempt.
Adults that have lost the simple appreciation for manners in children, anger me. It’s even more infuriating when I know how much progress my autistic son has made with his behaviors both in and out of public. I strongly believe in introducing children to public situations as much as possible or else how would they learn polite social skills?
Patience is very much a key word in my sanity. In dealing with military life, in dealing with a child with Autism, in navigating my children through a society that is too often ruled by self-centeredness and rudeness.
I’m now struggling to find patience in dealing with everyone associated in one way or another with the public Autism community as a whole.
My purpose for advocating about Autism was to enlighten others as to what Autism has been like for our family. Facts, statistics, and books about Autism are easy enough to find and important to understanding Autism. But facts are only part of the larger picture. Candid personal experiences are equally important, but not as easy to find.
My continuing research into Autism has led me into many directions and unfortunately, I’ve encountered many people who blog, tweet, face book, about Autism, Asperger’s, vaccines etc., in a militant way as though Autism is a war.
I wholeheartedly support every person’s opinions. Whether I agree with their points-of-view or not, there is always information and a new perspective to be gained. The symptoms of Autism range from mild to severe. The way in which we all respond, advocate, and write about Autism has a wide range as well.
I’ve read blogs and tweets from Autism advocates who are aggressive in their approach. I’ve seen the responses to blogs devolve into enraged opinions and personal attacks. For example, I haven’t taken a “side” on the issue of vaccines in relation to Autism. Personally, I have my own suspicions about the timing and amount of vaccines my son received and the subsequent Autism symptoms he began to exhibit shortly afterwards. My son’s Autism could have been caused by vaccines, genetic disposition, environmental factors, or any combination of the three or other unknown factors. The biggest mistake I think any of us make are to believe that vaccines and our opinions are 100% infallible.
I support everyone who is brave enough to voice their opinions about Autism publicly. However, I choose not to be involved in aggressive arguments that, to me, seem based more on being proven right, than in finding facts, truth, and understanding of Autism.
For some, Autism is a war. For others, it is searching for compassion and coping skills. Our life as a military family has been much the same. While my husband fights our country’s wars, as a wife and mother, I search for compassion and ways to cope.
While watching the film “The Insider”, which I’ve seen several times, I heard familiar dialog in a new way that voiced how I would like others to gain understanding in how Autism has affected our family:
“…what you’re going through goes on day in, day out, whether you’re ready for it or not. Week in, week, out. Month after month after month. Whether you’re up or whether you’re down. You’re assaulted psychologically. You’re assaulted financially, which is it’s own kind of violence because it’s directed at your kids. What school can you afford? How will that affect their lives? You’re asking yourself, “Will that limit what they may become?” You feel your whole family’s future is compromised, held hostage.”
What’s your response to Autism? Going to war? Protesting peacefully? As parents, we have to fight for our children and lead by example. For me, war is exhausting, understanding is uplifting.