Tuesday, February 18, 2014

He isn't Broken

This is an angry post. This is a potentially offensive post. But I absolutely have to write it, because the truth needs to be said.

There is a huge deluge of media, both crunchy and mainstream, wanting to link autism to vaccines, autism to toxins in the home and other environments, wanting to link autism to inductions, wanting to link autism to basically any saturation of chemical that a developing baby may come into contact with. Because above all, they are saying, autism means your child is broken.

For every "case" that supports this theory, there is a case that defies it. My Zao is just such a one. He was conceived, born into, and grew up in as toxin-free a home as I could muster without starting from scratch. He was born at home in the water, a spontaneous birth. He was exclusively breastfed, not a single bottle ever, and weaned naturally at 25 months. He is completely unvaccinated. For most of his life we have either been vegetarian, or paleo, or WAPFers, so there has never been any excessive consumption of dyes, or HFCS, or processed foods.

He is also (currently undiagnosed) non-verbal ASD (autism spectrum disorder, not otherwise specified).  He is four years old, does not have coherent speech, is still in diapers, and is the happiest child I have met in my life.

Though we are in process of seeking a formal diagnosis, for his sake, I generally find the label unimportant. It can be helpful, when introducing him, as he is socially very different than a typical four-year-old; but it can also be enraging. Because I see pity in people's eyes, and there is NO REASON to pity me.

Why would you pity me for my joyous son? For this happy go lucky boy who laughs his butt off at his favorite cartoons? Would you pity me for all of his fantastic bear hugs? For his love of chasing and playing tag? For his enjoyment of his own life?

He didn't get the memo that he was broken, you see. He didn't get the popular message promoted by the media that he needs to be fixed. That he should be something, someone else. 

My son is not broken. I hate the message of media and studies that want to blame something because he isn't neuro-typical. Let's find out what causes it, so we can stop it. I don't want you to stop it! I don't want you to fix it; he isn't broken.

I think the most tragic part of it all, is the amount of time wasted playing the blame game, trying to find out what is wrong, what causes this supposed wrong. Time that is better spent trying to understand this incredible gift of a child, better spent helping him overcome his difficulties so that he can live his life, joyfully, successfully.

This isn't the denial stage talking, by the way. I've gone through that, and it doesn't look like this. :-) This is me standing up and saying that you are wrong for thinking of him as broken. The media is wrong. Anyone who says for a moment that this exceptional, special child is broken is WRONG. Whether a child has autism, Downs, ADD, or any sort of physical or mental difference, that child isn't broken. That child isn't less than one without that difficulty. That child isn't the unfortunate result of x, y, or z. That child is a gift. 

The gift of new glasses with which to see the world. New eyes to see and understand humankind. The gift of growing yourself as a person. The gift of unconditional love.

These labels and boxes confine us, confine and limit our children. They don't teach us how to love them. 

Look beyond the label, look beyond the difference. Stop hating the difference. Stop thinking about what is "wrong." LOVE this person exactly as they are.


  1. Without different, progress would be impossible. It takes minds that ARE NOT "typical" to see the world in new ways and to approach old problems with new perspectives that result in new solutions.

    Joy is all we can really hope to see our children achieve but different can result in a multiplication of joy that can't be imagined or predicted.

    Different is also a gift but who cares when we have joy?!

  2. While I am not much of a fan of getting a label on a child (or anyone else) it is helpful. Insurance coverage matters if you want to pursue things like ABA or speech therapy. Also, as your child develops their physical strength may increase before their self control. I am having this issue with my 5 year old who has moderate autism. I do not know if your child has self harm issues or not, but some parents have had to painfully place their children in group homes because the self harm issues were too great for the parents to handle.

    1. I agree that a label is helpful, especially for the sake of the child. Were something to happen to us as his parents, the diagnosis is important in his receipt of assistance. Thankfully, he does not have issues with self-harm or harming others, his main difficulties at this time are communication. It is definitely something we have to take a day at a time, as he is always changing.