Falling From Trees, Indeed

I listen to a lot of National Public Radio.  I only have a 15 minute commute between my home and office, and it’s often that or listen to the drivel that passes for morning radio on my way in.  This also means, often, that the radio’s already on my local station when I’m off to evening activities, which means now and again, I catch fascinating articles on All Things Considered.

So, on Thursday, on my way to my evening out, I caught an interview with the author of Far From the Tree, a book by Andrew Solomon.  Mr. Solomon’s work is mostly an assessment of children and parents, and how children are, sometimes, very different than their parents. 

In particular, I was caught by a short portion of the interview:

On whether it’s fair to compare the experiences of families whose kids are deaf with families whose kids are, say, dwarfs or prodigies

“I found as I did the research that each of these individual differences felt very isolating to the people who were experiencing [them]. But then, in fact, there was an enormous amount that the parents dealing with these things all had in common. And ultimately it seemed to me as though difference was not something that isolates people, but rather something that unites people. And I thought, if the people who were dealing with autism could understand how similar this situation is to the parents of people with remarkable gifts who are prodigies — or to gay people, or to transgender people, or to dwarfs — if they could understand how much they all have in common, a lot of the isolation of those conditions would be mitigated.”

Um, no.  (Which is far kinder than the original phrasing I used, which I will not type here since I do try to keep up some appearances that I’m an educated, mature, civil person.  And, in the interests of being fully fair, I’ve included above the link to the article at NPR.)

My situation – raising a child with Autism – is NOTHING like raising a child who is gay.  Or raising a dwarf.  Or raising child who is a prodigy.  Or a child who is transgender.  Ask any parent of a child with Autism.

Any of these other categories that he broached does not majorly change the way that information is absorbed and processed in such a way to make it difficult – on the face of that condition – to function in society.  It may well change how they deal with society in various facets, but it is NOT the same as dealing with Autism, and to suggest otherwise is such a vast oversimplification that it is absurd and insulting to me.

Being the parent of a child with Autism is isolating precisely because not even other parents with children with Autism may well often understand how we’re feeling.  It means that whatever my Monster’s problems are in a given week, their child may have entirely different issues.  I think back to the bowling outing as a good example – we had children who could not handle the hustle and bustle of the bowling alley, and then the Monster was perfectly content.  For some kids, it was the overhead displays causing too much stimulation, others the constant din, and others still had issues with the sheer number of people.

There’s the saying that I hear a lot, and agree with, in our community – if you know a child with Autism, you know one child with Autism.

I have to imagine, after having had several days to think on it, that he did his research on these kinds of families, and threw in the Autism bit to use one of the “in” disorders to be talking about, given the rising prevalence.

I want to be clear on something – I don’t disagree with everything he says.  I don’t regret (in the slightest) that we had kids, even with the difficulties that come with how the Monster is at times.  I find being a father – even of a child with Autism – to be deeply rewarding, and even more so when he has his leaps forward and his minor successes.

I simply think the author ought to come try being the parent of a child with Autism for a little while – to come see it from our side of the fence – before he decides to spout off about how we ought to see things from the point of view of parents of children with other situations.

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