Autistic children grow up.
They get taller, bigger, stronger. And like other parents we must adapt as they do, both to continue to enjoy their presence in our lives and to help them develop to their fullest potential. For some parents of autistic children the physical growth of their children also represents a point of departure; they must part company with their autistic children whose behavioral challeges can no longer be accommodated coming from the large, powerful frame of an adult. The brutal reality is that some parents (particularly mothers) and siblings are physically attacked by the autistic children, brother or sister for whom they care so deeply.
I have read on the internet heart wrenching stories of parents who have had to make the agonizing decision to send their autistic child/adult to live in residential or institutional care. As a lawyer I have provided some pro bono legal services to parents struggling with the challenges of caring for autistic children who have been aggressive to them and had become a risk to family members. Such realities are not the usual autism fare of CNN, New York Magazine or Good Morning America. They are real none the less for the parents who care for these children and mourn, (yes Jim Sinclair MOURN), the premature loss of their children.
Above are pictures of our son Conor, 12, with his mother, Heather (also author of Goody Bledsoe, see right side of page). Conor, diagnosed with Autistic Disorder, is now slightly taller than his mother. He grew like a weed this past year, with the usual changes that accompany that stage of life. When Conor is outside the house by himself, in the yard or on one of the steps, we check constantly. Sometimes visually, sometimes by asking him to say "Hi". On one such occasion I was startled by the deep man's voice that answered. It was Conor's voice, no longer the voice of a boy.
Conor is aggressive on occasion. We have "managed" the aggressive aspects of his behavior, thanks in large part to Applied Behavior Analysis therapy which has also helped Conor with so many areas of life. But there are still times when it is difficult. And we know that a day will likely be coming when we will no longer be able to have him with us in our home. As Conor grows bigger and stronger and we grow older and weaker.
In the meantime though we enjoy Conor and all that he has brought to our lives. We do not subscribe to the misguided "autism is beautiful" ideology that urges people to find joy in their child's neurological disorder. We accept the realities of Conor's autism, we face those realities and we try to do something about them, to help Conor overcome them to the fullest extent possible. We do so with great joy, the joy of Conor, a fun loving, affectionate but challenging blessing in our lives. For as long as we can.