Accepting Autism: Cure vs. Explore

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This morning I browsed through my news feeds, and came upon this article by Maya M entitled Accepting Autism. The author was responding to an article written about parents who chose to take their child to Mongolia in search of a cure for his autism, as "Western Medicine" had failed them.  She then went into detail regarding her own personal pain she suffered when her son was diagnosed with Autism or something like it earlier on.  I love articles like this one, because it speaks to all of us who have ever had the diagnosis mentioned or suggested to us.  We start by researching Autism through various websites and forums, learn all the fads and "cures" that are supposed to bring autistic children to their senses, and finally move into despair, frustration, and depression when we feel like there is nothing we can do to bring our children into the "normal" stream of society.  And that was her argument:  we are trying to bring these special children into what is considered "normal".  We want everything to be normal about us, him, and so on.  Why?  What is normal?  How would you define normal?She mentioned talking with a couple of people who were autistic as adults, and their desire for acceptance, and not a cure.  A cure suggests that there is something wrong with those with autism or autism-like symptoms.  There isn't, because it's part of their personality.  If you "cure" them, you are making them into something that they are not.  Imagine "curing" Tesla, Einstein, and others that have given our world so many great things.My great comfort in this article is how to handle the diagnosis: 
  1. Don't succumb to depression.  This is a tuffy for a lot of parents, as it was for me.  Depression doesn't do you or your child any good. 
  2. Don't be obsessed with cures or treatments.  It doesn't matter if your friend's cousin swears drinking potato brain juice cured their child's autism, because many of the fads and "cures" are ineffective at best and fatal to the child at worst. 
  3. Accept your child for who he/she is.  Autism has to do with genetic/biological hardware, and not some magic spell cast on your child.  Accept it, and work with it.
  4. Be careful with mainstream treatments if they are aimed just at forcing normality down your child's throat.  Yes, occupational therapy, speech therapy, and the like are good, but if your child resists, don't force it.  Find something that your child doesn't resist.  Normality is an arbitrary assignment. 
  5. Build your child's self-esteem. Do not try to dissuade him from his "precocious" or "unusual" special interests. Help him to develop them into possible means of occupation.  These skills can be useful, and if your child is really good at them, then people will accept them for who they are, for the skill.  It's unfortunate that is the case, but it is none the less true. 
  6. If your child is still non-verbal at age 3 - 3.5, consider teaching him an alternative method of communication, such as spelling, sign language or picture-exchange communication (depending on the child's inclinatons). Never try to neglect his generic communication (pointing, screaming etc.) with the hope that this will "make him speak".
  7. Be very understanding. Your child has tantrums because he cannot communicate his desires to you or because he is in a sensory overload.  Getting angry may happen eventually, but it doesn't do any good, or help the situation.
  8. Care for the financial status of your family. Try to keep your job, if possible. Run away from every "expert" promising to rescue your child from the abyss of autism by separating you from your money. Even decent therapies sometimes aren't as good as toys and vacations that can be bought with the same money.
  9. Contact other parents in your situation, autistic adults, other disabled people.  Get involved when you can, so that others can feel helped and supported.  
I loved this posting.  It's just what every parent with autism needs to hear, particularly at the outset of the diagnosis.  I would highly recommend it to any parent who found out their child was diagnosed with autism, and is wondering what to do next.