I have a little secret to share with you.
Come here.
A little closer.
Okay, you ready?

There are people with autism among you. In fact, you may be standing next to a person with autism RIGHT NOW.

I’ve included a visual aide to assist you in the identification of someone with autism. Pay close attention so you know what to look for:

First, notice the eyebrows. See how they’re made of hair? Yeah. That. Also, there seems to be two eyes and a nose. That’s a major characteristic of people with autism. Finally, people with autism may smile. Or wear a baseball hat. Sometimes, they may do both things at once; that’s usually a dead giveaway that you’re in the presence of someone with this disorder.

Shhhhhhhhhhhh! Stop looking around, you’re making it obvious. Look at me.

Now, whatever you do, don’t make a sound. Don’t move a muscle. You don’t want to let on that you suspect a thing because everyone knows that people with autism are……………. ALSO PEOPLE.

I know. Shocking, isn’t it?

What’s even more shocking is that they’re everywhere. They go to the same grocery stores you do. They frequent the same parks and beaches. They attend the same worship services (not that it counts, because Jesus is too busy blessing you and your perfect family to care about some shmuck with autism flapping in the back pew).

Get this: they’re even allowed to go to school with your kids (I know, right?!) Your child may have even played on the same school playground equipment as someone with autism. Probably not at the same time though, because that would be too inclusive, so your offspring should be safe. But just in case, you may want to panic and call your local school district and demand ”those people” be removed from the property immediately. Preferably with a police escort and an ambulance or two standing by.

I mean, United Airlines is doing it and it seems to be working, so why not give it a try? Seems that all you have to do to get rid of someone with autism, is just ask.

As you ponder excitedly who you’ll call first (Your pediatrician’s office? Maybe the local community swimming pool? Your daughter’s girl scout troop or the boy scouts? Oh God, what if someone in the troop is gay AND has autism? *Head explodes*) let me fill you in on something: Autism is not going away. It’s not a fad, it’s not bad parenting, and it’s not a life of glorious never-ending entitlements. It’s a neurological disorder you dummy, and it’s coming to a loved one near YOU. This is not a threat, nor is it a scare tactic. It’s just the truth. Autism is everywhere and as long as you’re everywhere too, you’re going to come across it, and, despite what you may think, probably live to tell about it.

Here’s the thing: autism families like mine, who have been elbow deep in discriminatory bullshit for the better part of the last decade, are pretty much over judgmental pricks like you. This is our society too; our community. These are our churches and synagogues. These are our hospitals and our stores. These are our schools and our parks. We belong here and we’re not going to let some ignorant a-holes tell us otherwise.

And here’s a thought: if we make you uncomfortable, maybe it’s your turn to feel unwelcome and discriminated against. Maybe it’s your turn to stay home, day after day, wondering how you’ll ever be able to take that family trip, or attend a loved ones celebration. Maybe it’s your turn to leave dinner half-way through because the stares from others are penetrating through your skull. Maybe it’s your turn to be denied the simple right to access society without being told you don’t belong. Yes. I think I like that idea. I say let’s run with it.

You know what the worst part of your ignorance and hatred is? Big jerks like you raising another generation of jerks, who will inherit the earth and look at my son with special needs as “less than.” I break out in hives every time I think about it. Perfectly wonderful children who would be better off being raised by a cardboard box are being poisoned by your ugly interpretation of the world. Where’s CPS when you need them? Oh, that’s right. They’re harassing your next door neighbors because their son has autism and you felt the need to report the family for what you deem to be terrible parenting.

I can’t fix you. It’s not that I’ve given up and that I won’t continue to try and minimize the assholery my son and others like him have to face on a daily basis. I will never stop advocating. But I can’t fix stupid, so instead of wasting my time on you, I’m just going to keep bringing my child with autism….everywhere. You know, exactly where he belongs. Those who are salvageable will get onboard and realize the universe is big enough for all us. I know it seems hard to believe, but so is our local Trader Joe’s.

So move over, or get out of the way.

Oh, and one more thing.

May you or someone you love never need a single accommodation or the compassionate understanding of a stranger.

Because there’s nothing worse than having to tell someone who’s already being crushed by the unforgiving weight of isolation and discrimination

“I told you so.”


She Was Me.

by Jo on February 22, 2015

He was supposed to play in his first Challenger baseball game of the new season this morning, but instead we found ourselves at our local Children’s Hospital emergency room, making sure Andrew’s foot wasn’t broken.

(Never a dull moment around here, that’s for sure).

It was there that I first spotted them; a father and son pacing the floors of the ER waiting room.
This was no leisurely walk. Dad was trying desperately to keep his son close by, doubling his stride just to stay beside him.

It doesn’t take a genius to spot lifetime members of your own tribe.

As they got closer to where my husband and I were sitting with Andrew, we immediately recognized the stims, the vocalizations, the desperate and non-stop attempts to flee no matter the danger lurking beyond the safety of his father’s arms; these were as familiar to us as our own arms and legs and when our eyes met the exhausted gaze of this frazzled father we exchanged a look that said more than words ever could.

He was beautiful, this child.
(They all are, you know).

He was also in a hurry, and his dad was getting tired.

“Sit. Just sit for a minute. Just for a minute. Sit. Just stay here. Just one minute.”

And I got the sense that a minute was 60 seconds too long for this kid.

Eventually his mama took over, and dad melted into the nearest chair in search of temporary respite.

It was somewhere between their 47th and 131st lap around the circumference of the room that I was able to stop them long enough to cheer mom on.

“You’re doing great, mama. We’d be right there with you if our son’s foot wasn’t hurt.”

She looked over at Andrew, then back at her own son and the familiarity washed over her too.

Oh how she wanted to stay and talk!

Oh how her beautiful boy wouldn’t let her!

Fifteen seconds later they had spilled outside, beyond the automatic double doors and she was yelling for her husband while trying to shield her son from the busy street ahead with her small frame (you’d be surprised how strong we become when the situation calls for it).

That frenzied dance.

How well I know it.

It was like watching a scene from my very own life unfolding right before me, and for a split-second, it took my breath away.

We are many, according to the CDC, but we are so few Monday thru Sunday, out there in the real world, as we try to appear calm and composed and collected while society stares with it’s mouth agape at our manic efforts.

Coming across a mirror image of yourself like that beyond the confines of your home is like coming face to face with a rare, exotic, endangered species.

Before either my husband or I had a chance to assist, the parents had expertly managed to maneuver their son back inside, where the festering hospital germs didn’t seem nearly as scary as the fast and unforgiving cars outside.

A few minutes later, once her heart rate had returned back to normal and her ragged breath steadied, the mom quickly and quietly made her way towards me and handed me a folded piece of notebook paper.

“I don’t have many friends. I mean, I don’t have any friends. At least none that know what it’s like.”

I didn’t ask if I could hug her. I just wrapped my arms around her and tried not to get my snot bubbles on her shirt.

“Well, now you have at least one,” I told her.

And just like that, the world became a little less lonely for both of us.

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