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Autism Awareness Beyond Temple Grandin: Who Will Care for Our Children When We Are Gone?

Posted Apr 25 2010 1:35am
April 30 is fast approaching and Autism Awareness Month has been marked by the usual stories about the remarkable accomplishments of author, public speaker, very well educated and extremely successful entrepreneur and innovator Dr. Temple Grandin arguably the most accomplished and well-known adult with autism in the world .  Beyond the Temple Grandin stories there is also the usual  speculation that Einstein, and various other historical geniuses,  were autistic.  The identification of autism with historical genius is  led by academic Michael Fitzgerald of the Department of Child Psychiatry at Trinity College, Dublin, who "has speculated about historical figures with autism in numerous journal papers and at least three books".  

Seldom do autism awareness efforts feature the harsher realities faced by many with autism disorders, particularly those with Autistic Disorder   who can not and, unlike Temple Grandin, do not,  become able to speak or otherwise communicate.  Not much is said about autistic children who are seriously self injurious , who drown in neighborhood schools or wander into deadly snow storms or  automobile traffic.  One of the most glaring omissions is the failure to make any, mention of the 75-80% of persons with Autistic Disorder who are also cognitively impaired or intellectually disabled.  Temple Grandin is one thing but it would be much more difficult to hire a talented and beautiful actress like Claire Danes to put a pretty face on autism if the person she was portraying was  intellectually disabled and destined to spend her life in a  psychiatric hospital. 

Parents of children with autism disorders, at least those whose children are severely affected by autism disorders,  do not have the luxury of pretending that autism is a blessing.  Many of us  are haunted by the Ultimate Autism Reality   and wonder who will care for our children after we die. We   have to live every day haunted by the reality that our children will be unable to care for themselves and will live dependent on the care of strangers. 

Virginia Bovell writes about the ultimate autism reality in the Daily Mail in Who'll be there to care for our autistic son when we're gone?

"Danny was diagnosed with autism when he was three years old. He is now 16 and, alongside his severe learning difficulties, this year he has been in and out of hospital with chronic gastrointestinal problems.

He is often in intense pain and is on a fair bit of medication. We keep daily charts, we observe changes in minute detail, we adjust dosages - it is like a meticulously calibrated battle plan.

When he is well, it is as if he doesn't have a care in the world. He is cheerfully non-verbal - he has only a few words, such as 'momma', and 'diddle' for daddy. He is also happily and unresentfully dependent on others for most of his waking life.

On a good day I am optimistic for Danny, but if I'm honest, worry often keeps me awake at night. Because he doesn't speak, and understanding him requires close observation, I wonder who will love him enough to give him the levels of meticulous attention that a parent would."

Ms Bovell, and the Daily Mail, are helping create some real autism awareness as April draws to a close.  It may not make for a feel good movie but what they describe is the Ultimate Autism Reality .
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