Kick to the Chest

I am a fan of Brain, Chi1d magazine, and have been ever since Jo turned me onto it three or so years ago. It's still too polished for my tastes; articles on even the most wrenching subjects are still written with poise and unmistakable clarity, rather than the gut-churning immediacy I crave. I learn a lot, but the articles rarely reverberate; they never make me choke or cry. Regardless, it's the best parenting mag out there.

The latest issue features a piece called Stopppage, about a woman's decision to stop having children after her first was diagnosed with autism. "Hmm, fascinating!" I thought, and plowed through. Diagnosis, heartbreak. Yep, gotcha. Various therapies, confusion. Oooh baby, isn't it true. And then, a quick kick to my chest: "And it all worked."

What? WTF? Who sucked all the oxygen out of the room?

Now, I realize that every writer's experience is her own, and that she is not beholden to anyone, not required to soft-pedal her own experience so as to spare tender-hearted readers. She is not writing to me. But my gut reaction is what it is: I want to throttle her.

How dare she drop that bomb without qualifying it, without mentioning that her son's case is far from typical, and that, having seen what her son's life could have been like, that she realizes she is the most fortunate mother she has ever met, and she gets down and kisses the ground every morning?

I might spread some slack her way if she didn't know any other autistic children or their parents, and so had no conception of how glorious her miracle is. But she also wrote that her neighborhood has more than 15 autistic children in it. My fucking God! (And what the hell is in the water there?) She should know, should KNOW that most kids, while capable of great improvements, don't get to drop their diagnosis in a year and a half like hers did.

Maybe she is trying to give hope, to let others know that what happened to her child is possible for our children, too. But there are too many of us out here who hitched our wagon to the recovery stories of C. Maurice and K. Seroussi, only to discover that their kids aren't our kids. Our kids are doing well, but more than two years into our "journey," no one is ever going to mistake my child for a typical child.

Again, she is not beholden to me, nor to anyone else. But I think that anyone who writes about autism needs to consider the desperation and fragility of the parents involved. These are the parents who track down every autism-related article available, and so are the most likely to be reading Brain, Child for the first time because of this article. As one of these parents, let me tell you that her unqualified, one-liner take on her son's recovery felt like a smack in the face.

I'm going to end it there because Leelo's morning therapy just ended, Mali is hungry, and I need to pick up Iz from the airport.

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