I know a woman in my town who recently lost her legs. As was her habit, she was drunk and unaware. Then a train hit her and crushed her below the knees. According to her daughter, she is doing amazingly well! She has finally decided to quit drinking. Both the loss of her legs and the discovery that she was about to become a grandma were, in her opinion, a sign that it was time.
I know a woman in my family who would, if she lost her legs, see it as a challenge to become able and adept at walking. She would work hard with a wonderful attitude and a confidence (coming from who knows where!) that she would be able to travel, work with families around the world, drive and dance, perform and speak, with only a slight hiccup in her schedule.
I know a woman--and she is I--who would, if she lost her legs, see it as a sign that it was time to write her books. She would miss dancing with her children and driving her family around, but not enough to go after it as a new learning with prosthetics. She would become slightly more reclusive (but only slightly!) and relive walking and dancing through her words, and the characters she created.
The woman I know from town hears things like, "Just have a drink with me! Lord knows you deserve it!" and "What kind of mother are you? DUI's, child services taking your kids, letting your sixteen year old daughter drink? You deserve what happened!" and "You are amazing, and strong. You can do this." But regardless of what the world says, if she works hard and truly tries and doesn't give up--she is a success.
The woman in my family (mom!) would likely hear things like, "Stop working so hard to prove something. The universe is telling you to slow down!" and "Is it safe for you to work with children? Who do you think you are putting families in the position of dealing with your disability?" and "You are so strong and such a shining example! I will help you any way I can!" But regardless of what the world says, if she works hard and truly tries and doesn't give up--she is a success.
The woman that is I would likely hear things like, "Don't let the loss of your legs stop you! Get off your butt and try!" and "What kind of example are you to your boys, giving up and living in your head?" and "What a wonderful way to see the silver lining! I can't wait to read your first book!" But regardless of what the world says, if she works hard and truly tries and doesn't give up--she is a success.
None of these women has a better, more important goal. And none of these women are guaranteed to reach the ones they have, nor are they forced to never change them. These women are disabled, which to me means unequally challenged in some areas. For the woman I know in town and myself, having less leg may make our goals almost easier to reach. For the woman in my family that is my mom, it will certainly make it harder. But none of us are unable, unsuccessful, useless or invaluable because of our disability.
We are us. With less leg.
Regardless of what goals you have for your autistic loved one, and regardless of what goals they learn to set for themselves, don't be afraid to believe. And don't be afraid to admit that they are unequally challenged. And don't be afraid to push them to learn.
Only be afraid of giving up. Only be afraid of not trying and not believing. Only be afraid of getting so busy worrying about what you should do or where your loved one should be by now, that you don't enjoy where you are and what you're doing.
Autism has nothing in common with losing your legs. Except that it does. Because regardless of the challenges we are all people, doing the best we can with what we've got.
We are us. With less leg.
We are us. With more autism.
We are us. With colored skin.
We are us. With diabetes.
We are us. With dead-beat dads.
We are us.
Hugs, smiles and love!!!!