It's a Viral World: Making Autism Contagious.
Tribune Watchdog Or Tribune Skunk? Part 1

Autism, Empathy and Martin Luther King, Jr.

Shoot for moon By Lin Wessels

I have a son and a dream.  My son is going to be eight this coming Tuesday.  My son was diagnosed with autism at the age of 26 months.  It still brings tears to eyes, although not necessarily for all of the same reasons as it did some six years ago.

You see, when your child is given a label on the autism spectrum, you are not only led to believe certain something’s, but expected to accept other certain something’s as well.  Some of the most common are:  autism is rare, autism is hereditary, and there is no treatment.  Pretty bleak to say the least.

Legend number one, autism is rare.  According to the CDC’s most recent data, autism now affects one in every 110 children, and one in every 70 boys.  The data was reflective of eight year olds in 2006.  It represented a 57% increase from 2002.  Autism is now anything but rare. 

Delusion number two, autism is genetic.  While it’s true that after about two decades of rigorous searching for the ever-so-elusive autism gene, researchers have identified genes which may or may not be responsible for somewhere around 10 – 15 % of known autism cases, there is no such thing as a genetic epidemic.  An epidemic is defined as “spreading more quickly and more extensively than would usually be expected.”  See fallacy number one, above.  For the record, our son recently completed meticulous, methodical genetic testing.  He was tested for every gene ever associated with autism to date.  He has exactly zero.

Popular myth number three, autism is not treatable.  To say that, proclaims all hope is lost.  It’s not.  Hundreds of thousands of parents and grandparents to children with autism are treating their loved ones with success.  Once they are able to decipher what went wrong to cause the child’s autism in the first place, they are then able to medically treat the child and in some instances even go so far as to reverse the symptoms of autism.  Autism after all is nothing more than a set of symptoms.  It seems to reason that once you uncover the insult, autism is treatable.

There also exist extremely out-dated, inaccurate, misconceptions about individuals with autism.  But one of them being, individuals with autism are not capable of empathy. 

Today is a perfect example of how little “they” actually know or understand but that which parents of those with autism would be more than happy to share.  I work at our local school.  At the end of each school day, my son independently makes his way to my classroom.  This semester I happen to be at the opposite end of the building at the day’s end and he often beats me there, as was the case today.  The moment I stepped foot in the room, I knew something was wrong.  There he stood; such a sad, long face with tears ready to flow at any given moment.  All I need do was ask him what was wrong and flow they did.  He not only cried; he sobbed.  Big, heartfelt sobs ensued.  As is common in autism, his communication is somewhat lacking, let alone the sobbing.  We were finally able to piece it together; the second graders had watched, “Our Friend Martin,” and he died.  My son was heartbroken that anyone would treat others so poorly.  He was further saddened that someone evil would dare to kill such a fine person as Martin Luther King, Jr.  He was sincerely grief stricken. 

I immediately recalled a time when he was but a toddler, not yet able to speak.  We didn’t know he had autism.  Perhaps, he’d not yet been stricken by it.  He was watching Shrek.  As the Gingerbread Man’s leg was being broken at the order of Lord Farkwad, our sensitive Sam wept.  My son does now and has always boasted empathy.

I hope that it is becoming clear to you why I long ago stopped listening to the “experts” and to the media, which is nothing more than a mouthpiece for their mantra.  Besides the genes, the rainfall, the amount of television viewing, the age of the mother as well as the age of the father, refrigerator moms and dads, too, marrying your cousin and even evolution; those same professionals just concluded that autism is much more likely to occur in families where the parents are white, wealthy and highly intelligent.  Frankly, I wasn’t sure whether to be insulted or flattered by that one.  I can’t help being born white or highly intelligent after all.  Yes, I realize some of you are now rolling on the floor with laughter. I’m not…….well, wealthy by any means.  Hey, they’re your tax dollars too, people! 

I have a son.  He has autism.   But, I also have dream.  I dare dream of a world where autism is not only treatable, but a world where autism is also curable and preventable.  From this day forward, Martin Luther King’s  birthday will always hold historic as well as newly found meaning for our family.  It will signify hope for all… matter your color, creed, sex, age or affliction.

Lin Wessels lives in NW Iowa with her husband Mark and son, Sam.  Sam is seven and was diagnosed at the age of twenty-six months with autism.  Lin has since been a tireless advocate for all individuals and families affected by autism.  Because of her and Sam's work during the 2008 presidential election, the Sioux City Journal once dubbed her the "Autism Crusader".  Members of her local autism support group endearingly refer to her as "the one woman wrecking ball" and on Facebook she is lovingly known as the "Autism Queen".  At the public school which Sam attends and where Lin is employed full time as a paraeducator, she prides herself in being known as "THAT MOM."  Lin has vowed to help improve the lives of individuals with autism or die trying; because in the end, she feels hers is not the life the matters most.


Guggie Daly

Thank you for sharing, Lin! Over twenty years ago, my mom found the courage to ignore the "experts" as well. There is hope. Healing does not mean ignoring the personhood of the child, but of embracing and acknowledging the person as more than the symptoms. The symptoms do NOT define us as people! They do not need to be accepted!


My sincerest thanks to each of you. You are my inspiration and driving force more days than not. I am grateful for each and every one of you. I do wish we'd have met under different circumstances. However, one of the greatest gifts our kids give to us is each other. I am proud and blessed to to be a "member of the club."

I do believe our loved ones with autism have a much deeper understanding and intuitiveness than we may ever be able to grasp. That alone must cause them a great deal of internal pain and heartache.

Keep on keeping on! See you on Facebook.

Shannon Johnson

Thanks, Linn, for explaining that all so well.

Michelle Wandrack

Arthur Schopenhauer (1788-1860) was a German philosopher known for his philosophical clarity. He has made one of the most valuable observations on the shifting of human views on truth as he stated that all truth goes through three steps:

1.First, it is ridiculed.

2.Second, it is violently opposed.
3.Finally, it is accepted as self-evident


Lin, I can completely relate to your story. My son will be 8 this coming Monday. He was officially diagnosed at 26 months. We went through all of the genetic testing...nada on that front as well.

When my son was little he could not STAND being around kids who were crying. He would cry uncontrollably himself and try to get away from the noise if he could. This was really a problem when he first went to school and there were screamers and criers in his PDD class. My son has lots of empathy, lots of feelings, and lots of expressions.

I just want to give a big THANK YOU to all the warrior moms, dads and grandparents out there. You give me strength and hope.


I'm white unintelligent and poor. That study maybe blown too. (what we did wrong was to follow the vaccine schedule to the letter.) My daughter has been in a genetic study for 8 yrs. Absolutely nothing genetically wrong with her......Ahhhh!! she is recovered by the Grace of God and a lot of hard work.

Theresa Cedillo

BEAUTIFUL Lin! Beautifully stated. Give Sam a great big hug from us.

Cathy Jameson


That was beautiful! Sam is in good hands with you since you are a true believer. Thank you for our friendship and the chance to peek into your life.

Dreams do come to true....for healing, understanding and believing!

Autism Grandma

Thank You Lin and everyone who posts here at Age of Autism for sharing all of your experience, strength, hope, knowledge, understanding and encouragement.

As Martin Luther King also said, "I have been to the mountaintop.... and I have seen the Promised Land"....

Thanks to all of the ammunition available for fighting autism from Defeat Autism Now, Homeopathy, Essential Oils, Methyl B12, Glutathione, Colostrum, Enzymes, Probiotics, CocoBiotic, Chlorophyl,Cod Liver Oil, Milk Thistle, Bentonite Clay, Zeolite, L-Tryptophan, Aloe Vera, Baking Soda, Caprylic Acid, Rice Protein (Sun Warrior), Transdermal Magnesium, Gluten Free Casein Free Diet, Organic Vitamins and Minerals and more to grandson is climbing up to the top of the mountain and we are all looking towards the Promised Land. Our hope is that further chelation and Hyperbaric Oxygen will take us to the pinnacle of this mountain, but if not we will keep traveling in the direction of the Promised Land with more research, more efforts, more hope, more prayers and more LOVE:)


Wow-your words are powerful and inspiring! I am a Pediatric Occupational Therapist working with Children with Autism in NJ ( highest rate in the county as you prob know) and their families. I am also a mother of a 4 year old girl and a 5 month old BOY. I am currently on maternity leave and I continue to feel connected to the families of children with autism through this site. Some may find my reading of leisure odd-but it is what I know and LOVE. I find my way to share your stories with other families and BELIEVE me when I say it HELPS!!!

Thomas Brunelle

Beautiful Sentiments. I am a Father of 2 autistic children. A boy 11, and a girl 7. They are both non-verbal. Your child speaks for my children. Thank you for your work.


So beautiful, Lin.


My son is very tender-hearted and cares about the welfare of others. Too bad the same can't be said about a certain subgroup of vaccine injury deniers who blather online trying to prevent our children from receiving biomedical treatments justified by their lab work.

Kathy Blanco

My kids bubble with empathy, they are baromoters of how our family is doing, good or bad. Autism is not autism...It's a biomedical disease....and these kids STILL FEEL things.


Lin's love and commitment to our community is a something we all recognize and attempt to emulate. Her passion is evident in the heart of her son. She represents so many of the thousands of mothers who are true champions against this epidemic. Thank you Lin for your commitment and inspiration.

Someone asked on your Facebook post if it was possible that our children remember what happened to them. How else could witnessing the injustice committed against Dr. King cause such sadness in a child if that child didnt have an experience of injustice in their own life to relate to? One of the first questions I asked when I found out Ben was diagnosed with autism was, do they know they are different and I was told they didn't have a clue. My heart ached when I saw Ben alone on playgrounds, sitting by himself in corners of rooms while others played and interacted with each other, to imagine being excluded later on in life, prejudices, labeling, stigmatized for his "differences" crushed me. But what held me together was the words of the specialist that told me he would never know. I found that to be a lie, they do know, I learned this when I watched a nonverbal teen type on a keyboard and ask a reporter if his son was cute. I learned this by reading about some of your own children's lives. I learned this by seeing my own son's shame in his eyes when he breaks something or suspects he has disappointed me in some way. They know. And I suspect that they know what happened to them. And by God if they do know, woe be it on those that caused it. No wonder they twist and lie about our attempts at recovery. Once our children have recovered and can talk, and can march and riot in the streets, once our children are given their chance at Civil Rights we too shall overcome!

"We don't have to argue with anybody. We don't have to curse and go around acting bad with our words. We don't need any bricks and bottles. We don't need any Molotov cocktails. We just need to go around to these stores, and to these massive industries in our country, and say, "God sent us by here, to say to you that you're not treating his children right. And we've come by here to ask you to make the first item on your agenda fair treatment, where God's children are concerned. Now, if you are not prepared to do that, we do have an agenda that we must follow. And our agenda calls for withdrawing economic support from you."MLK delivered 3 April 1968, Mason Temple (Church of God in Christ Headquarters), Memphis, Tennessee

Teresa Conrick

Great words, Lin. We are making progress on all fronts and these ridiculous theories, myths and legends are going into the garbage.

Keep up the fight and thanks for all that you do.


Lin - I think we have the same son :). Thank you for everything you do.

just another mom

Thank you LIN. I ((heart)) you for your hope and help for the kids and for speaking up!

Holly M.

"That Mom" - priceless!


What I love about Dr. King was his unwillingness to sit down and shut up. God blessed him with that character trait. He spoke his truth peacefully, but he spoke. And he willingly paid the price for it.

God bless the parents, grandparents and loved ones who speak here, too. May God lift your spirits and your voices.


History will have to record that the greatest tragedy of this period of social transition was not the strident clamor of the bad people, but the appalling silence of the good people.
Martin Luther King, Jr.

Bob Moffitt

Martin Luther King, Jr: "I have a Dream".
Jesse Jackson : "Keep hope alive".
Al Sharpton: "No justice, no peace".

Odd that I, a proud grandfather of a lovable ten year old, nonverbal boy, who "regressed" eight years ago .. would find comfort and encouragement in those words .. which were meant to give comfort and encouragement to those struggling to gain "civil rights".

Yes .. I "have a dream" .. I will "keep hope alive" .. and .. for me .. there will be "no peace" unless I gain "justice" for my grandson.

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