As the dad of a kid with autism I go to battle a lot. I fight stereotypes, debate our politicians and argue with the school. However, as much as I am passionate about the causes involved in autism I am still aware of why I’m fighting. I’m fighting for my son.

Its easy, when I get into heated debate mode, to start “letting people have it.” I’m a fairly witty guy with a knack for turning a quick phrase, and consequently I have the dubious gift of being able to make people feel inept or uneducated. However, when I start to go down that road I try to ask myself a few questions.

“Does attacking this person help my case or prove my point?”

“Is this person truly inept or did they make an honest mistake?”

And finally, the biggest question, “Will this confrontation help my son lead an independent life?”

If the answer to the last one is “yes” then I will fight until I am out of breath. However, if it turns out I’ve gotten carried away, I have to figure out how to go back to the table, classroom, restaurant, etc, and make things right. My son has enough challenges. He doesn’t need his confrontational dad to add to them. If I’m in crusader mode, it takes away the dad he needs.

One of the biggest challenges the adult autistic population faces is the lack of knowledge about the disorder. Since we, de facto, are tasked with educating the public at large it behooves us to view ourselves as teachers. Most good teachers do not build confrontation into their teaching style, so I strive to take it out of mine.

Its hard, for me, because I’m a passionate person. I love my son and I’m emotional about his success. However, when I get what my wife calls “the crazy eyes” I know its probably time for me to take a deep breath and calm down. Is it as emotionally satisfying as reading someone the riot act? No. Does it give me the easy adrenaline rush and cheap “win” associated with the most demagogic political debates? No. What it does do, hopefully, is the right thing: Teach people that autism is part of a person, not all of him.

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