AUTISM EVERY DAY
I must emphasize, though, that I can only speak to the experiences of my family in saying that. Just as the clinical picture for autism encompasses a spectrum that each child falls on differently, so does the impact of autism on individual families run across a spectrum. I am aware of some people that do not perceive autism as a threat at all. On the other hand, the challenges of autism can be overwhelming in more severe cases.
It’s not just the child who gets autism; it’s the whole family. And the family is autistic all day, every day.
Divorce rates among the autism community are high; financial problems are rampant (even in states where health insurance is legally required to cover autism, getting the insurer to pay for even mainstream therapies other than Ritalin is near impossible); and the worry about an autistic child’s future never goes away.
As I said before, autism is not viewed as a “living hell” in the Rankin household, but neither is it a cause for celebration. It dominates our lives. It keeps us up at night. It redirects resources. What partly gets us through each and every day is our sense of purpose, and the willingness my wife and I have to share responsibilities. But the other thing that keeps us going is the progress we see our son make, we believe as a result of the hard work we put in, always keeping him as our top priority. It gives us hope for his future.
Not every family is as lucky as we have been. Considering as bad as things seem for us sometimes, that thought frightens me. Sometimes autism is so profound that hope becomes a scarce and precious commodity.
Autism Speaks recently produced a 13-minute video showing the impact autism has had on four families. It is disturbing, mainly because it is real. It’s called Autism Every Day, and it should be seen by every adult who does not have an autistic child. The next time someone asks you how many three-pointers your autistic son sank, whether your autistic daughter can play Bach fugues by memory, or just what “special gifts” your autistic child has, point them to this video. Those gifts are on one side of the spectrum, but Autism Every Day shows the other side of the spectrum.