By Kent Heckenlively, Esq.
“If a man has a hundred sheep, and one of them goes astray, doesn’t he leave the ninety-nine, go to the mountains, and seek that which has gone astray?” Matthew 18:12 – World English Bible
You might think since I write on autism and share the most current research freely with friends and family that the people around me would understand the reasons and the efforts my wife and I are making on behalf of our daughter.
You would be wrong.
You might think the simple fact that in 1993 the U.S. Department of Education listed 12,222 individuals with autism between the ages of 6-21 years old compared with 224,415 as of today might make the majority of people around me sit up and take notice. Instead, it’s only prompted questions from a long-time friend whose intellectual integrity I greatly admire about the possibility of diagnostic substitution.
Even finding articles from the most ardent advocates of diagnostic substitution in which they honestly reported that they could find no evidence of diagnostic substitution (although they will continue to look) did not appear to prompt any realization from my friend of the problem we face. I keep waiting for the “Oh my God!” response from people, but it doesn’t seem to come.
I know that many who make suggestions believe they are helping us, or cannot fully comprehend the magnitude of this controversy. Maybe it’s the nature of people to believe what they’re told by the authorities, like if man was meant to fly he’d have wings, or we’ll never have electric lights, but because of a few who see things differently the whole world can change.
Recently a family member told us it would be better if we took the money we’re currently spending on supplements and medical testing and get a nanny so my wife, son, and I could simply “get on with our lives.”
My daughter is not a malfunctioning toaster we can simply put in a cabinet and forget about. She’s a beautiful little girl with a million-dollar smile, piercing eye-contact, and tries to speak just as much as any kid except for the fact that she’s unintelligible. At night she cuddles up to us and giggles as she falls asleep. Doctors have told me that autism is an output problem, not an input problem. I believe there’s a person inside her malfunctioning body who is waiting to really communicate with us. I may not be able to know what she’s thinking, but when she’s walking around and suddenly has a drop-seizure, hits her head, and begins to cry, I don’t have to be Uri Geller to know that if she could talk she’d probably ask me to make it stop.
I had a fellow teacher come to me the other day and say it seemed like she couldn’t open a newspaper without reading about autism. She said I must feel great that the issue is getting so much attention.
Even though she’s one of the few people who consistently ask me questions, I couldn’t help but think she was being naïve. I believe those stories are a smokescreen, diverting attention from the real issue of causation. It’s a little like asking how many children in a congregation have been sexually abused without trying to find out if any leaders of the church were involved.
I’m not interested in another article about recognizing the signs of autism or how difficult it is to live with a child who has autism. I’m interested in why this is happening to so many children when all the available evidence shows this did not happen in the past.
There will come a time when I’ll put down the burden of relentlessly reading about this disorder, eagerly devouring the latest medical findings which might shed some light on this problem, and trying everything that makes sense to help my daughter, but now is not that time.
My little lamb has gone astray and I will not rest. If you want me, you can find me in the mountains. Send my love to the other ninety-nine.
Kent Heckenlively has worked as an attorney, television producer, and is now a beloved science teacher.