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Location: Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Writer/Curator/Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project. Contributing Author to Between Interruptions: Thirty Women Tell the Truth About Motherhood, and Concepts of Normality by Wendy Lawson, and soon to be published Gravity Pulls You In. Writing my own book. Lecturer on autism and the media and parenting. Current graduate student Critical Disability Studies and most importantly, mother of Adam -- a new and emerging writer.

“There is no hope unmingled with fear, and no fear unmingled with hope.” -- Baruch Spinoza

Monday, February 27, 2006

 

This Is What It's All About

I am compelled to share a paper that landed on my computer this morning written by my 16-year old step-son, Max:

Adam's World to Mine
By: Max Wolfond

I was thirteen years old and preparing for my Bar Mitzvah (Jewish ceremony into manhood) at my desk when I heard yelling from the room down the hall. My heart began to pound, as it often does when I hear panic. Moments later I heard my step-mom Estee scream "My water broke!" At an instant my dumbfound face turned immediately to a smile. She was rushed to the hospital by dad and a mere eight hours later, Adam was born. Unlike my clever response at age three when my sister was born, "I knew it was going to be a boy or a girl," when I first saw Adam I was speechless. I had never been so happy to see a baby cry in my entire life. I don't know if I realized it consciously or subconsciously, but at that moment, I knew my life would change forever.

About a year and a half later people began to notice things. Adam was not making eye-contact like most 18-month old babies, nor was he socialable as the other kids in his nursery. It became somewhat of a concern to the family and to Estee especially. I cam home from school one cold December afternoon to find Estee struggling to hold back tears. She told me that Adam had been diagnosed with autism. At the time I was not exactly sure just what autism was, although I had known somebody at camp who was autistic. I did my best to show sympathy for my dad and Estee by saying I was `sorry.' So life went on and Estee began to hire therapists to work with Adam. She hired two therapists who worked closely with him, on basic skills such as interaction as well as trying to stengthen his verbal and non-verbal communication skills. At about one, my brother Adam took a keen interest in letters. Soon, he could recite the whole alphabet and identify letters at random. He could also count to twenty.

Adam is now three and two-thirds old and is working with a therapist daily as well as attending Nursery School for half the day. He has a very busy life and no doubt keeps Estee and my dad's lives busy as well. Adam is now able at less than four years of age to read a number of words and write the letters of the alphabet. He is very compassionate and gives a hug to just about every friendly face he sees. Like any kid his age his favourite foods are pizza and chocolate. Something as simple as jugging can make him smile and laugh, and often cause him to burst into song. When he hurts himself (bumps his head or falls), it takes all of thirty seconds to put a smile back on his little face. He is the most loving and happy three-year-old I have met to-date.

I find "Adam's world" to be the most intriguing of anyone in our family or any of my friends. This is not to say I love him any more than the rest of my siblings or my parents, but his interaction with others is more fascinating than most people I have met without autism. The goals of the work Adam is doing with Estee and the therapists have changed since he started. Where as the initial goal of the therapists and our family was to "cure" Adam of autism, it is now quite the opposite. We believe that it is not Adam who needs to be cured, rather, our society who needs to be cured of its phobia of difference. Society needs to learn to accept people for who they are, not who they want them to be. Our new goal is to try to get a better understanding of Adam's way of thinking and how he sees the world, to better the way we can interact with him. I feel people around can learn from Adam and learn other things from other's with autism. A common misconception and assumption people make is that all people with autism have the same problems and same strengths as one another. In truth just like all human beings, people with autism spectrum disorder are all extremely unique. Techniques we use to help Adam may be different than the ones to help "Sue," but the primary goal remains the same: Acceptance.

On April 11, 2002, the stork dropped off a helluva gift. My baby brother has given me so much love and happiness, and so much to learn. I am certain he will gain abilities that will take him on an endless path of success in his life and I pray people will be able to see past the word often put in front his name: Autism. The uniqueness he possesses will show the world that "they" are not all the same, and are wonderful people too. The initial tears on my step-mother's face the day she got the news have quickly turned to tears of joy. Adam is growing into a sensitive yet strong human being. He is to me a brother, a friend, and a teacher, and I am certain my life could never have been so great without my younger brother Adam.


Could a brother and an old step-mom be any luckier? Can a sixteen-year-old change the world?

13 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Adam's brother speaks with such wisdom and love that go well beyond his 16 years of age. The message is genuine and inspiring.

Scorpio

2:45 PM  
Blogger Mom to Mr. Handsome said...

(Wiping tears from eyes)
Estee, what a wonderful stepson you have. So intelligent, compassionate, and wise for his age. You must have a beautiful family that you are so proud of.

Kristin

I always wonder how my oldest daughter will look back and see her childhood with Gabe. His letter put a dash of hope that she too will embrace his differences.

3:19 PM  
Anonymous Camille said...

Beautiful essay. It should go in a newspaper. I got teary eyed, too. Max is a very fine young man.

3:32 PM  
Blogger SquareGirl said...

I love this essay. What a gift Max brings us with these words.

4:16 PM  
Anonymous Emily said...

Ah Estee that is so lovely. How lucky they are to have each other as brothers.
Thanks for sharing it.

5:13 PM  
Anonymous Bonnie Ventura said...

Awesome! I agree with Camille that this essay should be shared much more widely. Please post it on the "About Our Wonderful Kids" forum of Aspergian Pride!

5:40 PM  
Blogger Kristina Chew said...

I would say, a not quite four year old already has.

8:13 PM  
Blogger Eileen said...

That is so beautiful! Max and Adam are lucky to have eachother. I am sure society will change with help from the wonderful siblings that our kids have.

11:18 PM  
Blogger Stephanie said...

"Can a sixteen-year-old change the world?"

This one seems bound to do so. :-)

11:57 PM  
Blogger Lora said...

Hi Estee,
I just discovered your blog from Eileen's and boy am I ever glad that I did. After reading that essay I am bawling, it was so touching and beautiful. Thank you for sharing it. I shall return to visit on a regular basis. My blog is: My Beautiful Child Griffin & Autism, there's a link on Eileen's blog. I am so glad that you changed your blog title, I love it! If only more people could view autism in such a positive manner what a great world this would be. I'll be seeing you, Take Care

5:46 PM  
Blogger Estee Klar-Wolfond said...

Thanks, Lora. I will definitely check you out.

Estee

6:24 PM  
Blogger Bronwyn G said...

Yes yes yes he can!

I love his words about his brother Adam.

Every child and adult with Autism should be lucky to have someone who is their ally and who loves them so much.

10:01 PM  
Blogger Phil Schwarz said...

I came to this essay of Max's two years late, here now in July 2008, by virtue of its being referenced in Estee's latest blog post, "Laughter at the Airport".

Max, this was a great essay, and I think you're on the same trajectory towards an adulthood as a true ally that my daughter Rachel is on. (I think Rachel's fairly close to you in age: she's 19 and just completed her first year of college.) She wrote about growing up with her autistic brother Jeremy, back when she was in middle school. She and Jeremy are much closer in age than you and Adam: Jeremy's 17 and about midway through an ungraded high school program for teens on the autism spectrum.

1:33 AM  

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