Cure intolerance, not autism

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Awareness and cure are words I hear every April when National Autism Awareness Month rolls around.

The Autism Society’s website describes the purpose of the month this way.

“In order to highlight the growing need for concern and awareness about autism, the Autism Society has been celebrating National Autism Awareness Month since the 1970s. The United States recognizes April as a special opportunity to educate the public about autism and issues within the autism community.”

Our “autism awareness” began 22 years ago when our daughter was born. Because diagnosis took time in the early 1990s, it was about four years before we realized autism was a part of our lives.

When she was younger, we participated in autism walks and events. Now, mostly we live our lives, letting her be who she is and loving her. Still, awareness and cure pulled at me this month, So, I checked out their definitions.

According to Webster’s Dictionary, awareness is knowing something (such as a situation, condition, or problem) exists.

Cure, according to the same dictionary, is something (such as a drug or medical treatment) that stops a disease and makes someone healthy again or something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation.

After reading the meanings, I thought about how those words relate to my family.

First, I considered awareness. Of course, autism is a situation and a condition for her and for us. Is it a problem? That is not easy to answer.

Autism means our child is different from the majority of people on the planet, and different is a problem to many folks. However, the person I know, who happens to have autism, is an amazing human not a problem.

She isn’t mean to anyone and not telling the truth never occurs to her. Experts say this shows there is a problem that needs “curing.”

Perhaps, we need certain skills to live in society. Do we need meanness to protect ourselves? Are there times when being less than truthful is necessary?

I don’t know. I do know this young woman seems happy and content. She asks for almost nothing. Her biggest desire is that her schedule remains the same or that we explain in advance if it is going to change. What if that was all any of us needed to be happy?

Of course, as long as we are here, her life is fine. What concerns us is what happens when we are no longer around. I hope raising awareness leads to providing resources that keep her life fine long after we are gone.

A cure is something with which I struggle. I understand autism poses challenges for those with the disorder and for those who care for them. I know it is often difficult and trying.

Still when I look at my daughter, I do not see “autism.” I see a person I love who happens to have a different way of being.

Should I want to change that, want as the definition says, “something that ends a problem or improves a bad situation.” Again, I don’t know because I don’t know my daughter without autism, can’t really imagine her any way other than how she is at this moment.

So, I thought a lot about autism awareness and a cure as they relate to my family.

Autism awareness is a daily reality for us and that‘s fine. Every month of the year we are aware that the condition exists. Hopefully, now more people realize it, too.

As for “curing her,” I don’t give that much thought. If they find something that helps her navigate in the world, I’ll be happy. If not, I will do what needs doing to take care of her.

No, the cure I hope for isn’t for her. I’d like a cure for judgment of and intolerance for anyone who is different from what the world considers “normal. “ That would make life better for my daughter and for everyone with autism.