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“It’s Not All Bad, Folks”

By Sandra Grabman

Here’s a shorty, a variation of which was run in the June, 1990, edition (Volume 1, Number 3) of Family Forum on Autism.

Sure, having a child in the family with autism does cause some problems; and the parents must change a lot of their preconceived notions of childrearing, but that’s not necessarily bad.

For instance, our son Buz has needed many years of speech therapy, special education, summer camps for the handicapped, and fourteen months of hospitalization; but I feel that has given us an advantage that other parents don’t have. These professionals have been the most caring, nurturing people I’ve ever known. With generations so widely scattered these days, how many parents have the benefit of such backup?

We’ve had years of family therapy, which consisted of as much emotional support as practical help. I wonder how often other parents wish they had someone to whom they could turn when a difficult situation arises with their children. All I have to do is wait for the next scheduled therapy session; or, if it’s more urgent, our psychologist is as close as the telephone, eager to help.

Buz has helped us get to know the people in the neighborhood – indeed, in the entire city and beyond. At seventeen, he’s very curious, but very innocent; so when he goes up to strangers and asks all about the supermarkets in their hometowns and pipe organs in their churches, they soon realize they’re dealing with a very unusual, but lovable, person. Once they get to know him, they like him and feel somewhat protective of him. (His teachers have told me that he gets the same reaaction from the regular kids in his high school.) It’s not uncommon for me to meet someone for the first time, and they break out in a smile and say, “Oh, you’re Buzzy’s mother!“ He just seems to bring out the best in people.

Buz has brought a lot of laughter into our lives, as well. Once he saw a bank “time and temperature” sign that apparently had a short in it because it was flashing the same phrase over and over again. He said excitedly, “Look! It’s autistic!” [One of the typical symptoms of autism is called perseveration, in which he will repeat a phrase endlessly.] He’s a pretty sharp kid.

Sometimes I feel sorry for families that have only regular kids in them. How boring their lives must be!