I’ve never been one to embrace the “mainstream”. As a kid, my favorite button had the statement “Why be normal?” (followed closely by “I refuse to grow up”). I recently saw a postcard in a Hot Topic store that said, “You look at me and laugh because I’m different. I look at you and laugh because you are all the same.”
With an autistic child, the whole concept of normal and different takes on a whole new perspective, but for me it has really been an excuse (as if I needed one) to explore what it means to be different in a world of normality and normal in a world of difference. Though I’m sure Zeke’s life (and the rest of the family’s) would have been much different had he not been (become?) autistic, I can’t really say that it would have been “better.” Sure, we’ve missed out on some things that everyone else takes for granted, but at the same time we’ve experienced things and take things for granted that most people can’t even imagine. (Can you tell, I’m a glass half-full kind of guy?)
So what brought about this little rant? A couple of quotes from CNN.com – Parents in trenches of autism services – Aug 10, 2005:
Years later both say that vacation served as an adjustment period and a mourning period for the life that David would never have.
“We know that David will never be normal. He won’t be mainstreamed,” he said. “But he is in a good program, receiving good therapy, and he is picking up good skills. While he will never have a normal life, our hope for him is that he is able to live in a group home and have some kind of a job.”
I don’t mean to trivialize the nature of autism and the challenges and changes it creates, but there is incredible joy to be found in what most people think of as tragedy. For example, I would be willing to bet that the parents of autistic children know more about their children (both autistic and neuro-typical) than “normal” parents of “normal” children will ever know about theirs. We are forced to become more involved, to understand the how and why of our childrens actions and abilities.