Saturday 28 April 2012

Documentary Feature

I was asked to participate in a documentary about my experiences raising two children with autism, specifically about the government therapy programs available.  The documentary is being created by Quickstart Autism, a local charity which provides help to parents before diagnosis.  The purpose is to allow children to get started sooner and prevent parents from making common mistakes.

It was a little difficult to go over some of the material.  The day Alex was diagnosed was unquestionably the worst day of my life.  In the moment, it felt like every hope I had for my beautiful little boy was being taken away.  Even worse, there were no treatment suggestions.  Had Alex been diagnosed with cancer, there would have been a treatment plan.  Not a pleasant one, but we would have been given odds of success and ideas about different treatments.

With autism, there are no answers.  Some kids respond to some therapies, others respond to different ones, some don't respond to any.  As a newly diagnosed parent, that is incredibly overwhelming and I suspect it's why some families go broke chasing miraculous "cures" again and again.

I'm proud of both of my sons but I also have to be aware that their horizons have been limited because of the autism.  Particularly Alex.  Perhaps he will be able to learn to overcome the obstacles his own mind places in his path.  We don't know.  All we can do is keep trying.

That was my final thought for my interview.  People with autism can become contributing members of society if they get the help they need.  They can be valuable, able to see things in different ways, able to find patterns in massive amounts of data, able to serve as human databases for incredibly detailed knowledge.  But they need to learn how to interact socially, even if minimally.  They need to learn how to tolerate the everyday occurences which are intolerable to them.  And they need to learn how to overcome the obstacles their unique minds place in their path.

Not everyone with autism may want to become part of society.  I can accept that as their choice.  But those that do should have the opportunity.  Early intervention produces faster and more significant results than later.  It's simple economics.  Spend money now to help them, or spend a lot more later trying to clean up the mess.

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