By Kim Stagliano
What if you did not know me and you saw that photo above, what would you think? That I have a nice 4 year old, perhaps? Would you smile if you had no idea that I am a Mother Warrior with three daughters on the spectrum? Not just on the spectrum, but on the "wrong side of the tracks" of the spectrum. Huh? Wrong side? Hell yes. We're seeing the full assault on low verbal, behavior-intense boys, girls, teens, young adults with autism right now in the Alex Spourdalakis story. We couldn't get the attention of a single media outlet while he was in the hospital. Now, after his gruesome murder, the PR machine has slipped into gear and roared out of the gate to make sure that somehow, anyhow, the non-genetics segment of the autism populations would be tinged, no make that engulfed from head to toe, in guilt. Especially anyone associated with gut injury, and you know who that means, dear AofA reader.
(BTW, I've never apologized for a single parent who has murdered his or her child - with or without autism. And I continue to make no excuses. We have a moral obligation to our kids to keep them safe - even if that means safe from ourselves. My chapter "Mother Superior" in my memoir is all about the string of murders in our community including a mother in England who poured Drano into her son's throat, none of which have been used/covered like Alex's.)
The photo above is the fridge worthy type of art most parents of preschoolers display with pride. Except that it is the 12th grade work of my 18 year old daughter. Oh. Insert awkward pause here.
Yesterday the PBS kids show Arthur was on, and they aired the episode about Asperger's. It was done fairly well. The child with AS had a meltdown during a playdate and his typical peer felt confused and scared. After the meltdown the typical child talked to a friend who told him his uncle had Asperger's. They proceeded to show a framed newspaper article about the uncle's Nobel prize in science as a local professor.
Take a look at the photo above.
Autism in the media looks very little like what my three daughters have - very litte indeed. Ari Ne'eman speaking for my girls as an expert? A farce. Even Temple Grandin, a female herself, looks nothing like my girls who actually have far more emotion, facial expression and ability to be physically loving compared to what I have seen in Dr. Grandin over the years.
How many times have you said (like I have) "when you meet one person with autism, you've met one person with autism." My girls matter. And their autism is a valid and real, even if rarely acknowledged in the media portrayals. Your child too.
Kim Stagliano is Managing Editor of Age of Autism. Her novel, House of Cards; A Kat Cavicchio romantic suspense is available from Amazon in all e-formats now. Her memoir, All I Can Handle I'm No Mother Teresa is available in hardcover, paperback and e-book.