I watched a documentary the other day that got me to thinking. I know, dangerous, eh? The documentary was about three young men at different places on the spectrum. One was non-verbal, one was moderate and the other had Asperger's. The non-verbal boy and the boy with Asperger's seemed very comfortable with their autism. The young man with moderate autism was frustrated and kept on talking about his brain being broken.
I asked myself, "Why such a difference in attitude?" The answer became obvious. It was the views on autism by those around the individual on the spectrum. I heard not one negative word about autism from any of the people around the two who seemed happy. The boy with Asperger's said he viewed his autism as an asset. The non-verbal boy was surrounded by neuro-typical teens and adults who treated him with respect. The unhappy boy's parents said his brain was plagued with autism. They constantly spoke about it as a disease. They did all of this in front of him. It was very apparent that the parents who spoke negatively loved their boy. I honestly don't think they realized how their comments affected him. They often talked around him to others. When others talk about you as being broken or plagued, you're eventually going to believe it.
I understand that dealing with the symptoms of autism can be very difficult, especially for the caretakers. There are many that view it as a disease and use words like "afflicted", "broken", and "suffers from". Negative words are often sharper than any blade. Research shows more and more that individuals with autism are aware of everything that goes on around them and that includes conversations. Just because someone can't verbalize their feelings doesn't mean they don't have them. Rail against autism, hate it if you want. Make yourself miserable with constant negativity. That's your prerogative. Just keep it away from your kids. You don't have the right to suck them into your blackhole of misery.
Andy and I are very conscious of what we say around Xander. I don't ever want him to have that feeling of self-loathing. It would absolutely break our hearts. I want him to know that he's not broken.