We attend a lot of meetings at schools and with doctors due to our sons autism. I’ve noticed that many folks try to tell me how things will unfold for my son, or set limits on his abilities. I have a tendency to think less of people who do that, but it does seem like a somewhat common flaw to assume that expertise is the same thing as divination.

As a dad, I’m fairly skeptical when it comes to anyone limiting my son’s potential. We have been told repeatedly that he wouldn’t be able to do things, like make friends, ride a bike, hop on one foot, etc. Without fail, those folks have been wrong. It takes extra support for Raymond to learn how to do some of those things, but he manages to do them.

When I’m challenged by an “expert” who tells me that something can’t be, I retreat to facts. I tried the emotional route, but that doesn’t do my son any good. When I’m told “Raymond can’t stay calm all day” I ask for proof. When the proof comes, often it shows that his IEP wasn’t followed, his BIP wasn’t followed or an untrained staff member was involved. What this tells me is that, since the supports weren’t in place then Raymond should be given the benefit of the doubt.

I take the same tack with doctors. Clinicians can be judgemental and predictive in their pronouncements. I’ve found that by digging a little deeper I can often get them to recant their dire predictions and give me a realistic assessment of where my son is now and what supports he needs going forward. My responses are often like “I know he has autism, doc. You don’t need to tell me what that means. However, you have spent (X amount of time) with Raymond. What are his needs right now, and what supports can we put in place to help him become more independent?” This sort of statement refocuses the discussion and can get to the heart of the symptoms you came there about.

The hard part about it is reorienting people to the core issue and not letting the conversation get lost in the “what if” phase. I know, as a dad, that I want desperately for someone to tell me that my son is going to be okay. What I’ve learned is that I have to be that person for everyone else. My wife has to be that person too. We have to tell people he will be fine, and then get the supports in place to make it come true. If you really want to predict the future, you will do it by creating a world where it can exist.