By Cyndi Kershner
Maybe having a child with special needs is like landing in Holland.
In my experience, having a child on the autism spectrum is like
landing on Mars.
Welcome to Mars.
Your family was recruited by the government to participate in
groundbreaking new research about life on other planets. You were
initially very excited about the trip, convinced you were doing the
right thing to be of service to your country.
You were told your trip would be extremely safe, and that there was
lots of research to back that up. In fact, try as they might, the
government could find nothing unsafe about traveling to Mars, and
their research even pointed to the fact that the trip could be
beneficial to the health and well-being of your family! Nothing to
Once you get to Mars, you realize this was not at all what you were
led to believe back on Earth. The atmosphere is toxic and the provided
spacesuits do not give you sufficient protection from the dangers.
There is nothing your child can eat on Mars, even though the
government told you there would be. You are stuck trying to make the
best of the emergency rations , and you and your family miss the way
you used to eat.
For some reason the trip to Mars has rendered your child mute, and he
is acting really funny as well…he keeps flapping his hands. The
government sure didn't warn you about this.
You and your fellow travelers were given a two-way radio with which to
communicate with Earth. When you get to Mars you call your contacts
on Earth to explain how badly things are going, and they tell you from
the pictures you have sent and what they can observe through the video
logs, everything looks fine. Your child looks very healthy and happy!
You ask about the hand flapping and are told it's a harmless
by-product of space travel ,and he'll get over it soon.
You begin to mistrust the government's intentions in sending your
family to Mars, and you talk to your fellow travelers , whose children
are by and large acting the same way. They too have begun to mistrust
the government's intentions, and you begin to form close bonds with
them, helping each other figure out how to best help your children.
You realize that your connections to the Earth at this point are
getting tenious. You hear through your contacts that people on Earth
are beginning to think badly of you because you have questioned the
government's intentions. Even your family and friends are not treating
you the same anymore.
Eventually, after much heartache and feelings of disillusionment, you
and your fellow travelers band together to support one another in
helping the children and creating the best life on Mars possible,
because all the communication devices have broken, and you all think
you won't be heading back to Earth anytime soon.
Welcome to Mars.
Cyndi Kershner is the mother of a twelve year old son recovering from autism.
She is training to be a yoga therapist and teacher, and lives in Seattle ,WA.
She volunteers with Autism Resources and Recovery of WA and is a Rescue Angel.