If there is indeed a heaven, and your autistic child goes there when he dies, will he still be autistic?
Over the years I’ve come to believe that asking someone this question about autism in heaven is one of the best ways to understand how they view autism. Even better than asking them whether they believe that autism needs to be cured, though of course there is probably some correlation between a person’s answers to these two questions.
I guess it really comes down to an even simpler question: Is there autism in heaven?
But it isn’t really that simple, is it? Because if you ask that, you also have to ask, “Is there deafness in heaven? How about blindness? Are schizophrenics still schizophrenic when they get to heaven? Are there wheelchairs in heaven?”
Obviously there are no “diseases” like diabetes, heart disease, cancer… in heaven, those are all physical things. So why would there be a need for wheelchairs. And blindness and deafness, those things are usually physical manifestation, so they shouldn’t be in heaven either, right?
But what would heaven be for someone who is blind here on earth? Or deaf? Or confined to a wheelchair. (Kind of gets you around to the question of what, exactly, is heaven, but I really don’t want to go there.)
Many years ago I heard a story on NPR‘s Morning Edition, Ben Mattlin’s commentary Valuing Life Whether Disabled or Not. It was, in fact, this story that first prompted my question about autism in heaven.
Commentator Ben Mattlin has been quadriplegic since birth. At the memorial service for a disabled friend who passed away, he came to realize the world needs to expand its definition of what it means to live a successful life, disability or not.
What caught my attention:
Are there no wheelchairs in heaven? I’m not buying it. For me, if there is a heaven, it’s not a place where I’ll be able to walk. It’s a place where it doesn’t matter if you can’t.
Is heaven a place where there is no autism? Or is it a place where it doesn’t matter if you are autistic?