The House We Live In - Happy Fourth of July from Age of Autism
New Polls Show Skepticism of COVID Vaccine

Marching Toward Adulthood

Flag heartby Cathy Jameson

The reminder.  I knew it was coming.  I thought I’d be prepared for it.  But I wasn’t. 

Last week, Ronan got his first piece of mail from one of the branches of the United States military.  For years, I’ve read about other parents of special needs children and their reactions when mail like that was delivered to their home.  Sometimes it’s shock.  Other times it’s sadness.  Walking from our mail box toward the house while holding the envelope with Ronan’s full name printed on it, I laughed out loud. 

Wait til I show the kids this!  They are not going to believe it.

So that they could form their own opinion about the invitation to join the service that Ronan received, I left the envelope on the kitchen counter and walked away. 

The advertising to join this dedicated crew was full of every patriotic concept I’d hope they’d include – if you’re mentally tough if you’re physically tough, if you are driven and not afraid of commitment, if you want to make a difference, if you want to build leadership skills and serve your country – it was a very well thought out message!  But my son would be excluded from all of that.  Unbeknown to whomever addressed that letter, Ronan has a disqualifying condition: autism.  That and seizures give him no chance to serve in the US military like his grandparents, his uncles, his cousin, his favorite aunt, and his father have served.  Others with an autism diagnosis may have gotten through the initial steps to join, but they were quickly sent home. 

Just for grins, I went to the website of the group that sent Ronan the mail.  On it, I could enter some personal data to see how good of a match Ronan might be.  Ronan’s got several delays, to include his physical growth.  He’s shorter than what the CDC growth charts suggest for a kid his age.  He’s also weighs a bit less than their average, too.  Typing those numbers in, I wasn’t surprised that he would need to gain some weight before a recruiter would even think to contact him.  Ronan would also need to get busy working out. 

For initial enlistment, Ronan would have to be able to do 35 push-ups in 2 minutes, complete 47 sit ups in 2 minutes, and run 2 miles in 16 minutes and 36 seconds.  Ronan cannot walk more than 2 blocks before needing physical assistance.  That comes in the form of either one of us holding his hand to encourage him to keep putting one foot in front of the other or getting his stroller out.  If Ronan’s not too tired, he can hold the handle of the stroller and use it as a walker.  If he’s too exhausted, which is often the case, he climbs into the stroller and signs for us to please push him.  I already knew this, but a fast-paced, high-energy career like what the military offers would be ill-suited for Ronan. 

I’d left Ronan’s mail on the counter all afternoon.  One by one, each of the kids had the same reaction I did.  They laughed, and not in a mean way, but at the absurdity of the thought of Ronan in the military. 

What?!  The military?  I’d like to see that!  

Where did this come from?  Do they not know Ronan??

If they really knew him, they wouldn’t think to send stuff like this. 

Oh, THAT’S COOL! But… it’s kinda crazy.  I mean, he can do a lot things, but I didn’t expect this.  I guess if he learned how to talk and get better at a couple of things, like putting his clothes on by himself and correctly, maybe he could go.  He’d really need to listen better and focus more first though.  He probably should learn how to use the bathroom by himself, too…

In order to shed some light on why Ronan would have received this kind of mail, we talked about selective service, the draft, and also about what the military does for our country.  Already knowledgeable about several aspects each of the branches offer, I didn’t need to lead the conversation.  So I just listened.  They were somewhat discouraged thinking that Ronan would be asked and that he could be told to join simply because of his age.  The siblings knew a great deal about the military already, and they knew that it’s just not an option for their severely disabled brother.  They do, however, hold our nation’s military and its members in high regard and are grateful for them. 

It takes courage and determination to serve in the military and is one of the highest honors.  It isn’t for everyone, even for children who grew up full-time in that community.  It isn’t and won’t be for Ronan, and I’m okay with that.  My child, and others with similar diagnoses may not be fit to serve, but I appreciate every single person who does.  As a military brat and also a military wife, I have only the deepest respect for the honorable men and women who do answer the call to serve our country.  They defend my country, and in doing so, they protect my freedom.  I would hate to live life without them. 

Cathy Jameson is a Contributing Editor for Age of Autism.


Jerry Martinez

Thank you Ms. Cathy for all your heart felt writings. Our son, soon to be 14 in September was damaged by his MMR at one. Walking at 10 months, saying hi shortly before turning one. Speech was there, but after more vaccines, disappeared by 2 and a half. He recently learned to float on his back. Thank you for all that you do.


It is illegal to deny a person with a developmental disability the right to vote. My son with autism votes by mail in Ohio. I have never had an issue with this.


Israel is trying to recruit those with autism to an IDF cyber unit. Israel supposedly has a mandatory draft but Arab Muslims and Arab Christians are exempt since 1948 so are ultra orthodox Jews and many regular Jews and Druzes are getting exemptions in an increasing number. The groups I just mentioned may also have medical exemptions but I am talking about draft exemptions for a non medical reasons. We need to downsize our military and so does Israel. The military industrial complex cost both countries hundreds of billions of dollar of tax money and the military causes disease and disability in many from the impacts of war.
Did this mother who wrote this article get her child "Ronan" check for a genetic or metabolic disease cause his short stature and weight?


I had not even thought of this new path now that Ronan is of age. As often as I have celebrated his life and the milestones he has accomplished, I am still taken aback when “real” life pops up its ugly head. Nevertheless, thank God for Ronan, parents and sibs! Thank God for the freedom we (still) have in this country. And thank God for those who do serve honorably.
(And thanks for the song!)

Grace Green

I wonder if the military will defend your freedoms when it comes to forced vaccination against Sars-Cov-2. I'm afraid times are changing. UKColumn have been reporting that the UK military are actively involved in social media propaganda against "antivaxxers" and others who are barely managing to continue to exercise free speech.

Aimee Doyle

I am also a former military brat (Dad - 20 years enlisted in Air Force) and a military wife (husband - 20 years officer in Air Force). We still have many friends from our military days.

I understand how Cathy and Ronan's siblings felt when Ronan received his selective service registration paperwork - or son received it several times - and each time we had to fill out paperwork explaining why he couldn't serve.

It wasn't just the military paperwork, though, because there are other ongoing reminders that hurt. For about four years from ages 17-21, my son received college information in the mail. He still periodically receives jury summonses, and we have to explain why he can't serve. He has received credit card offers, which is surprising since I wonder about an industry that would offer credit to someone who has never (and will likely) never be able to work for pay (and who has no financial assets).

I think the one reminder that is most painful, though, are the election year reminders to "register to vote!" Our adult children are completely disenfranchised. Unlike other disabilities, where accommodations can be provided to help the individual vote, that doesn't work for those with severe, or even moderate autism. I am sure there are other individuals with severe disabilities who are similarly disenfranchised. So our adult children may have a voice (us) but they don't have a vote. Who can speak for them politically? What politician cares about a population that can't vote?

I've often wondered why legal guardians can't vote for their wards - they can make every other decision (medical, financial, logistical, programmatic) - but a legal guardian can't vote in his/her ward's best interests. It seems strange, given that individuals with Alzheimer's and other brain dementias don't lose their right to vote when the disabling aspect of the disease takes over.

Now that my son is 30, he doesn't get as much of this kind of mail. And I feel sad about that too - opportunities long gone...

Angus Files

Yep you have to larf as we did at the head of the hospital shaking our heads in dis belief when we we refused his booster MMR The head replied " he could catch mumps and never be able to father a family your being really irresponsible") at the time he was standing all over the chiefs desk trying to spin and fall of it having just removed him from the contents of the office garbage can.

I remeber this one from the past and dont see the word autism et-al..wishful thinking an all that..

Nearly three-quarters of Americans age 17 to 24 are ineligible for the military due to obesity, other health problems, criminal backgrounds or lack of education, according to government data. That's a harsh reality check for the Pentagon’s plan to recruit tens of thousands of new soldiers, sailors, pilots and cyber specialists over the next five years.

"We all have this image in our mind of this hearty American citizen, scrappy, that can do anything," said retired Army Lt. Gen. Tom Spoehr, co-author of a new Heritage Foundation paper on the military recruiting challenge titled The Looming National Security Crisis. "That image we keep in our heads is no longer accurate."

Pharma For Prison


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