Kristina Chew is a mother of an autistic son and a well known and influential autism blogger whose views have been sought by prominent media institutions in the United States. She has visited this site on occasion and left some kind words. Her writings about her own son are those of a mother who loves her son deeply. The pictures of her autistic son enjoying life with his parents are particularly moving. When I see her son's pictures and read Ms Chew's comments about her Charlie it seems that in many ways he is very much like my son Conor.
I have always disagreed though with Kristina Chew's tendency to downplay the harsher realities of autism disorders. I am particularly saddened to see her recent writings about two incidents of parents taking the lives of their autistic children in which her point seems to be that we should not talk about the negative realities of autism disorders, we should emphasize the positive aspects of what are neurological disorders in order to prevent other parents from harming their autistic children. Ms Chew says that we should pretend that autism is a good thing to be embraced. We should ignore the fact that many with autistic disorder will live narrow restricted lives, many in residential care facilities, some in psychiatric hospitals. We should ignore the basic fact that, as parents, we sought medical attention for our child before we knew he was autistic, because we knew something was seriously wrong with him. Before his diagnosis twelve years ago I did not know what autism was. Twelve years later I have a better understanding and I have no intention of embracing it.
I love my son and look forward to the time I spend with him. I post many pictures on this blog site and on my Facebook page of Conor; the overwhelming majority of which are very positive. But I do not lose sight of the realities of his autistic disorder. I have done my humble best to improve my son's life and I have, along with other autism parents who refuse to wear rose colored glasses, fought hard to help other autistic children obtain evidence based early intervention and education opportunities. I have also lobbied actively, admittedly without any success to date, for improvements to our province's residential care system for autistic adults. On this site I push hard for autism research which will be more oriented toward finding out what causes autism, finding cures and treatments. I see no reason why my son should live forever with the deficits imposed by his neurological disorder if ways to help overcome those deficits can be found.
The fact is some people are overwhelmed by life and break down. Some do horrible things and in some cases those persons do those things to their autistic children. Some of the parents who commit these acts may have their own mental health issues independent of their child's autism. To suggest that other parents should stop talking about autism realities in order to prevent such tragedies is not based on evidence, logic or common sense.
The way to prevent such tragedies, to the extent they can be prevented, is to find help for the parents who need their own medical or psychiatric assistance, to speak honestly about the realities of autism disorders, to stop the almost exclusive focus on the genetic research obsession (it's gotta be genetic, Teresa Binstock, 1999) which has yielded nothing of value to help autistic children. The way to prevent such tragedies is to conduct research to find the environmental triggers of autism, to find how autism works biologically, to find cures and treatments for autism disorders, to provide more and better early intervention, schooling and adult care.
The way to prevent such tragedies is to commit our selves as people, as parents, to helping our children overcome their neurological disorders.
I love my son and that is exactly why I will never put on the rose colored glasses and embrace his autistic disorder.