I am the mother of several special needs children. My last to be diagnosed was labeled Autistic, but I had to laugh a little when I read through her Education Plan. Only one time did they use the word “Autistic.” The rest of the time the word “Exceptional” was used. Not “delayed” or anything about being on the autistic spectrum,” but “Exceptional.”
It’s true that words like “Autism” or “Aspergers” are quickly becoming unfashionable. After all, most criminals wear one of those labels these days. In fact, we usually hear about a killer having a mental health issue being on the autism spectrum as soon as the drooling reporters hit the crime scene. It’s been so publicized and misused that a mom like me hesitates before I tell anyone.
Thank you society for pushing me here.
There is no mistaking when you’ve spent some time with my youngest that there is something different. Yes, there is a beauty underneath that curly mop of hair, but you likely will never see her eyes because she won’t make eye contact with anybody she doesn’t know very well. If you bend down and address her directly, she will run. It doesn’t really matter if she does run, because she is non-verbal.
But for goodness sake don’t ask me why she is the way she is, because I don’t want to use the word “Autistic” anymore. I don’t want you to visualize a pimply kid in a trench coat sporting assault weapons. Then again, they have you looking at a .22 hunting rifle as an assault weapon, so maybe all of our definitions and views are slightly askew.
This isn’t just my view. I belong to several “Moms Of Special Needs” groups and we lament often about the unfashionable labels and the hilarity that is “Exceptional.” We also discuss the long term effects of this media attention and flinging around of the “Autistic Spectrum” labels. Long term effects such as parents not discussing issues with their pediatricians because they don’t want to face having an Autistic child. Medical care providers that make notes in the back of the file to pass along to the government about a potential dangerous person when they see a 3 year old with a hand flapping issue. Children who are high functioning and will never be able to have the luxuries of being normal and being able to protect their family with a gun because at one time someone stuck a “hazardous” label on their childhood.
But neither should we say there is “nothing” wrong and the child is just “Exceptional.” There is a huge push from the Autistic Community that there is nothing wrong with being on the spectrum and they just “think” a little outside the box full of fun colored puzzle pieces. It’s all warm and fuzzy, but it’s just a shove back at society that not every Autistic kid is going to shoot up a school when they are older.
So where is this publicity about Autism and mental health issues as discussed by our government going to lead us? Until the day we start discussing it as a “health epidemic” and create a nation that is willing to fight this “health epidemic” with the ferocity we see with pushing for flu shots and birth control, we will see parents with children undiagnosed because it’s an unfashionable and unfathomable label to see stuck on their kid.