A while back I had lunch with an old friend, and the topic of conversation wound its way to autism. I, of course, am the parent of an autistic son. As it turns out, his nephew is also autistic. He wanted to understand autism, and I wanted to help him understand. But I didn’t know where to start.
There are many possible ways to approach the question. I could start with: Vaccines cause autism, once they have it, it’s a long struggle to recover them. Or how about: Nothing “causes” autism, it is just another aspect of this neurodiverse world we live in.
As far as treatment: Chelation, to get rid of the mercury and other metals. Or: A special diet that is almost impossible, and incredibly expensive, to adhere to. Or: ABA. Or: (add your favorite treatment here). How about, there is no need to “treat” the autism, you just need to treat your child as a child; different, but still just a child.
For someone to say that all autism is nothing more than mercury poisoning is irresponsible, though I don’t doubt that at least one case of autism could be traced directly to mercury. To say that all autistics live miserable lives and will never be happy or able to live and function on their own is simply untrue, though it goes without saying that there are some autistics whose life will be exactly like that.
On the other hand, to say that all autism is solely the result of genetic factors – with no influence from environmental triggers – is irresponsible, though I sincerely believe that some cases of what we call autism are indeed purely genetic manifestations. To say that all autistics have the potential to live happy lives and live and function on their own is as untrue as the opposite example above, though obviously some autistics will find happiness and success on their own.
If you are new to autism, because you have a newly diagnosed child or you are just curious, listen to what the extremists and fundamentalists have to say. Read the blogs and books of parents of children with autism and the books and blogs of autistic adults.
And then pay attention to your own instincts and make up your own mind.
Get to know your child – as he or she is, not how you wish they were – and figure out what YOU think is best.
Not just for your autistic child, but for you. For your spouse. For your other children. There is no simple answer, no matter what you hear, and there is no simple path to follow as you make your way through the world of autism.
Sounds a lot like parenting, doesn’t it?