Live Together, Die Alone

This is an historical post from an earlier blog, Adopted Son of the Autism Family, which I had before this current blog. It is re-posted without modification (other than this introductory sentence).

If you’re not a Lost fan, allow me to reference this excellent scene from early in the series, in which Jack implores the castaways against divisiveness. At the time, they face unknown but tangible threats – the smoke monster, the Others, and just trying to survive on a strange island away from stable food, clothing, shelter, or medical care.

I think this is also relevant to the autism family and autism advocacy. It’s a problem when we spend all our energy fighting therapies we don’t trust (or the vaccine hypothesis!) and don’t focus our energy on how most familes don’t even have a choice between established and controversial therapies, because they have insufficient access to care. It’s a problem clinically when people come to autism because they are “kid people” and don’t value the fact that those children long for growing up and living adult lives, or pediatrics people don’t prep and support their adult practitioner colleagues to serve adolescents and young adults. If we cannot love the adults our children will become, we should not serve them. It’s a problem when adults who didn’t need intensive therapies feel like they need to stand in opposition to children receiving life-changing therapies (it’s a blog for another time, and it’s not going to happen for WAAD 2013, but let me reiterate my standing invitation to Mr. Ne’emen and others to come to our clinic, and see what good EIBI is like for kids, and why we’re proud of what we do). It’s a problem when our autistic adult brothers and sisters who are deciding amongst graduate schools don’t want to stand up for their fellow people with autism who need help with sheltered employment or supported living, instead of working together to lift all autistic adults up, empower them, and celebrate their accomplishments.

All of these reasons are why it’s very important to me (even though my title is “Director of Children’s Services”) to create end-to-end solutions that serve people with autism and their families from birth well into adulthood. This is why I’ve always worked hard to make young and not-so-young autistic adults feel welcome in my clinic and strived to give them a service of which I can be proud. We can’t do it all, though, and that’s also why it’s important for me to recognize and celebrate everyone who’s in this to help people with autism, big and small, young and old, woman and man, to thrive, and everyone who sees the inclusion of people with autism and the rest of us as a good and natural evolution of who we are as a people.

Here among the autism family, our blood runs blue. 365 days a year, and 366 on leap years. It’s true for almost all of the people I know, who are associated with this community, by fate or choice. We don’t have anything to prove to each other, and we should not waste time fighting amongst the  family. Our enemies may be less tangible – systems that trap kids in a life of disability because they don’t have access to therapies, smart adults who cannot earn a living or flex their considerable talents in the workplace, moms and dads getting sneers or lectures at the grocery store, people bullied instead of cherished for who the are – but Jack’s point remains. We live together, or we die alone.

As for me, I love life. What about you? And if you love life empowering people with autism like I do, can you spend a few minutes this April finding out about how the brothers and sisters who thinks differently from you are empowering the community? Are there some at which you’d like me to take a closer look? Happy Autism Awareness Month!

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