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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

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

 

Compassion


I envision a group. A gay friend of mine came up with this idea today -- it may sound "granola head" :) but it was an interesting idea: He said that he was asked, by his Reform Synagogue, to lead a group of parents who couldn't cope with their child's homosexuality. Parents were even embarassed to be seen in the group as they did not wish to be stigmatized. My friend had to listen patiently to all of the bias and prejudicial comments of these fearful parents in order to build a bridge to acceptance. My friend received this comment: "If my son was successful as you..." Someone else always had the tougher plight. Someone else's homosexual child, was always better off than another's.

So, he brought other gay people in (my friend is conversative, not the stereotype a gay person -- or at least the stereotypes these parents had). He is successful. Some of these others were like a "spectrum of gay people" -- successful business people, lawyers, judges, women who looked like men, pretty women who didn't "look gay," to unemployed people with nose rings and blue hair. These people attended the subsequent meetings and also listened patiently to fearful parents, angry parents, prejudical parents who wanted to cure their children of their homosexuality. Many of these people were also subject to behaviour modification training to look "normal," while other parents sought to cure their child of homosexuality altogether.

There was a rule to this group, however: There was to be no talk of causes or cures. This was thought to be a barrier to true acceptance.

Everyone was allowed to express their thoughts and feelings, and at the end of the exercise, the parents didn't see anything wrong with homosexuality -- that it was just another kind of "normal." Siblings born of these parents later attended (the gay children were not part of the group in order that the parents be allowed to express themselves freely). It was discovered that in the years of the parent's "mourning," and obsessing over their sick or abnormal gay child, the other siblings felt neglected.

While I do express many views based on basic human rights in this blog, I do feel that groups can be brought together in autism, and I really liked this example my friend told me about today. Autistics must lead these groups. While some are not able to lead them, there are others who can and who are likely willing. Autistic people came to speak at the Joy of Autism: Redefining Ability and Quality of Life event in October -- and we discovered how Susan Senator sends her son to an ABA school because "they love him there," and of course if people accept autism, that is really all that matters. We learned that Elijah does stand-up comedy. We learned from Jim Sinclair that his need to move his hand up and down was not a stim or inappropriate behaviour, but a way to find and feel his hand so he could direct it, or that his wheelchair represents for him not confinement, but liberation -- a piece of equipment that allows him to move around without falling down. We learned from Phil Schwarz about his Aspergers and then of his son's autism; we learned from Michael Moon that what a non verbal autistic child truly does change over time, and from Michelle Dawson that autistics deserve better than speculation, assumption and "lousy science." Martine Stonehouse talked about her journey with autism and read her poetry and Brian Henson also talked about discrimination in front of his photographs.

I know that when we feel a certain way about something, of feel blamed and confronted, it is easy to become defensive. But what if parents had a safe place to talk about autism, with autistic people? I know there are some groups that do this, but I am not sure if people go in those meetings with the same rules (no talk of therapies, cures, remedies or causation) and goals of acceptance. People try so hard to understand this little quirk and that, that maybe we are all missing the forest for the trees -- there is a difference between fascination with autism and genuine understanding. At the end of the day, true acceptance doesn't really require any knowledge of autism at all. But that may be too big of a jump in thinking for today.

2 Comments:

Blogger mcewen said...

Pass me a pogo stick and we can all be granola heads together.
Best wishes

6:52 PM  
Blogger Lisa/Jedi said...

I think my kid could facilitate one of those groups- I've seen him advocate quite successfully for himself with other kids' parents before, without a whit of help from me or his dad. This is a great idea!! I hope we can see it happen soon.

12:55 PM  

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