Ever since Aiden’s problems and communication delays began to become apparent, around age 2, we very often got sympathetic advice from well meaning individuals. We went through various stages of bafflement, serious worry, seething anger, helpless tears, and finally resigned laughter over said advice. It usually takes on the same note: Aiden is effectively broken and defected as a human being and you need to work very hard to fix him and be prepared for the eventuality that he’ll be needing constant care for the rest of his days.
In shrugging off this advice one may wonder if the title of my post is in jest, that we are in actual denial. However, having lived this journey with Aiden for over four years and across two continents now, I can safely assure everyone who may be concerned: rest easy, we are not in denial. We have a very good idea of Aiden’s abilities and the challenges he faces. Given the resources and knowledge available to us we have provided him with the best learning environments and the most up to date therapy techniques.
We acknowledge and embrace the reality of Aiden: he has next to no eye contact, he can only speak in very basic two-four word sentences, he cannot form friendships with his peers but can form relations with those older than him. He is intellectually very able and thankfully doesn’t have the more debilitating of the autistic behaviours like extreme rigidity, sensory challenges, a propensity to tantrums etc.
While acknowledging Aiden’s said ‘shortcomings’, we also refuse to believe that he is ‘defected’ or ‘broken’ and needs ‘fixing’. Now here comes the denial part and our somewhat controversial approach. See, the Mr and I are of the opinion that autism is not a disease that needs to be cured. So all the journeys, metaphorical and physical, that we have taken with Aiden have not been to find the ‘cure’ to his autism but rather to help him deal with the frustrations he experiences almost daily when his limited expressive ability cannot keep up with his very bright mind. Aiden, in our opinion, is not disabled but differently abled. His autism is what makes him, not what breaks him.
For people who have not been very close to a differently abled person understanding this is very difficult and I guess when they see what might be to them a flippant attitude towards very obvious difficulties, the rational reaction is to assume that the parents are in denial. This is a frustration that I am sure, a number of families feel when it comes to their loved ones who have something, a special need, that sets the individual apart.
We don’t think that Aiden will ‘grow out’ of his challenges. We just hope that with the right support he will be able to make the most of his very obvious abilities and learn ways to cope with his challenges. We also do not believe that Aiden will need the life-long care that some fear he may. Again, not looking through rose tinted glasses here but being brutally rational: one in 68 child these days is being diagnosed with autism. Society cannot afford the burden on keeping these many people out of the work force. Work places will therefore need to adapt to make it easier for autistic individuals to hold down regular jobs. This isn’t utopian, just a practical deduction.
So yeah, just in case you were wondering, we aren’t in denial. Just not as beat up about our boy’s future are some might think we should be.