As the father of a 17 year old son with severe autistic disorder, profound developmental delays and epileptic seizures I know that once I have passed on my son's life prospects will almost certainly diminish. Now at home and school he is living a happy life by the measure of anyone who knows my son including those who know him best ... his mother and father. My son is cherished and I would not and could not do what the mother of Alex Spourdalakis did but I can not stand in the shoes of Alex's mother, I have not lived the stresses and challenges she has faced.
The realities of life with a severely autistic child can be very, very stressful and it has been often in our household. Some people break under pressures. To date neither I, nor my wife have broken. As a lawyer I have some advocacy skills and I have been active in advocating for early intervention and school services for children with autism in our province. Some people have also flattered me as being of strong character .... others have simply pointed out, probably more accurately, that I am just stubborn.
I am continuing to advocate for early intervention and school autism services and for adult autism residential care services. My autism advocacy efforts have received some modest recognition as a New Brunswick recipient of the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal:
I do not mention my modest accomplishments for the purpose of self aggrandizement. I mention them because despite the challenges faced in our home arising from caring for the severely autistic son we love I also have some advantages, as a lawyer with an advocacy career, in coping with those challenges. Not all parents enjoy similar advantages in dealing with the stresses and pressures of raising a child with severe autism disorders.
While attending a law school class reunion brunch several years ago I brought my son Conor with me. I didn't know if, or for how long, he would be able to manage the event. As it turned out he loved it. The ball room in which the brunch was held, my classmates and families present were quite orderly and the food was excellent. Conor was quiet and enjoying the view when a waitress at the event approached our table and asked if he was autistic. I answered yes but asked her how she knew since he had been sitting very quietly, happy and I thought unnoticed. She replied that she had 3 children of her own. I have never forgotten that encounter or the realization that for her as a waitress, without a professional advocacy background, and with the challenges of raising not 1 but 3 autistic children she probably faced greater challenges than I could imagine. I have tried not to judge other parents of autistic children the way Willingham and other business sponsored "autism is a condition .... not a disorder" Neuordiversity ideologues do.
Whether Willingham and other business publication writers, vaccine industry sponsored writers and Neurodiversity extremists like to admit it or not when people receive an autism diagnosis, which is a medical diagnosis, they do so because autism is a disorder not a "condition". The term is now formally known as Autism SPECTRUM DISORDER with three levels of severity with respect to the varying levels of support in daily living required: support, substantial support or very substantial support. My son requires very substantial support as it appears Alex Spourdalakis did.
It would be better, instead of using his death as a launching pad for attacks on parents who do not share her Neurodiversity "autism is a beautiful, alternate way of thinking" ideology if Willingham would actually use her bully pulpit at Forbes to explore the harsh realities confronting those with severe autism and their families and actually advocate for services for them. But no I won't hold my breath waiting for such a great awakening.
A US court will determine the fate of the mother of Alex Spourdalakis. I suspect, despite pressure from Forbes' columnist Willingham and other business sponsored writers and Neurodiversity ideologues the harsh realities of the life of Alex Spourdalakis, his severe autism disorder and the impacts of that disorder on his family will become known to the public.