Justin and I were watching a past episode of Law & Order SVU last night. It was going as pretty much every Law & Order SVU goes, although I haven’t seen an episode in years. This time there was mention of the offender being “on the Spectrum.” Not everyone watching the show would know that “on the Spectrum” means Autistic, but I did, and it bothered me.
I pressed pause and looked at Justin. “I don’t think I want to watch this anymore.” Justin’s an awesome husband, but he didn’t understand why I wanted to stop it. I continued watching the show, but soon pressed pause again.
I told him this. This, which I was shocked I hadn’t told him. This, that our life has been too overwhelmed to talk about.
I told Justin stories I’ve heard in the past weeks that break my heart and make me fear for our son, Jeremiah.
A few weeks ago a mother killed her Autistic son, London. She threw him off a bridge.
Heartbreaking. Unimaginable. My heart cries for this six-year-old boy. Just one-year older than my son. In photos, he’s smiling, looks engaged, and is playing, flying a toy plane for the photographer. He didn’t know what was being done to him when his mother made this murderous choice, he was scared. The world hears that Autism is too hard to handle, it’s too much, it’s too difficult, so much so, that a mother has to kill her son to avoid whatever it is that she felt was stopping her from living her life. This is the worlds view of Autism, many times their only view.
A twenty-two-year-old Autistic man was in the news recently. He’s in jail, having spent most of his time (three-years) in solitary confinement because an officer didn’t know how to correctly handle Autism.
I cried as I told these stories. I cried for young Landon, because of the pain and fear he felt at not being accepted and loved as a child should. He viewed the world differently, and in turn was treated differently, he was treated as if his life wasn’t worth living. The isolation he felt must have been excruciating. The despair he must have felt every day, living with a mother who didn’t see who he was, agonizing. The terror as his mom threw him over the bridge into freezing, icy water…No words.
I cried as I told Justin about Neli, the young Autistic man who was arrested because someone thought he was carrying a gun near a school. He reacted to a cop asking his name and handling him, so would many Autistic people. They’re overwhelmed and some don’t want to be touched. I feel for him as he sits in solitary confinement, how uncomfortable he must be, how he’s going without things that calm him. I wonder what he’s eating, because people with Autism have very special diets.
In these stories I hear, I wonder what Jeremiah would do. I worry about him.
I finished watching the Law & Order SVU episode, but shouldn’t have, I felt horrible afterwards. The teen is shot in the end, when there could have been an arrest made instead of death. This is what the world sees of Autism.
Autism Speaks isn’t much better. I used to go to their website, share the blue puzzle piece, and lit it up blue. But then I started listening to the adult’s who have Autism (or “are Autistic” as they like to be referred to) and many have strong opinions on Autism Speaks. In a miniscule nutshell, they don’t portray Autism in a positive light at all, it’s very negative.
The general populace doesn’t understand Autism. They only know what the news tells them, and most of it isn’t good.
What’s not in the news?
Autistic people like my son, the ones who are loving and kind. Those people with Autism don’t make the news, unless they’re savants, and then only sometimes. Autistic people aren’t murderers or law-breakers, they aren’t people to be feared or locked away, or treated with shock therapy.
I wish the world knew Jeremiah. I wish they saw his smiles, his laugh, his sense of humor. I wish they could see him for who he is, not what he can’t do, or what he can’t say. I wish I didn’t have to fear what will happen to my son. The bullying, the stares, the misunderstanding.
I can’t live in fear, but it’s so hard to keep out the loud voices. The what-ifs. So, I try to push out the worries, and focus on how we will take care of Jeremiah. We will be here. Always. And as I protect my son, I will strive to share the positives of Autism. I will share with hospitals how to treat people with Autism, and hopefully that will meld into sharing with emergency personnel. And, I will write, write, write.
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