When I co-authored “Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs” with Jack Canfield, Mark Victor Hansen and Heather McNamara, the biggest dilemma we faced was what to call the book ,as folks both did and did not want to be labeled in certain ways. It was reported to be the most challenging title the Chicken Soup people wrestled with to date. What we learned was that people on the autism spectrum and other spectrums for that matter, are people first before their condition!
Some of my favorite people are on the autism spectrum! My dad, my son, Stephen Shore, my sister (maybe) and even a bit of me! When my son was diagnosed in 1992 I embraced his autism and mostly tried to focus on his gifts, strengths and talents rather than the deficits he displayed at the time, after I got over the initial denial of it all. Of course I had the same challenges families face in those beginning years and could have chosen to have a negative attitude and chose instead to focus on the positives as much as I could. As part of his early intervention, before the days of behavioral interventions, I wasn’t about to wait around for science to prove to me whether certain methodologies were legit or not. I just wanted to find tools that would enable him to have the best life he could have.
Of course I used my own “mom” common sense compass, built into most moms, though I tried things to help my son that were not necessarily science based. They were “mom” based. My real question is who are we to “fix” people? All people are broken in some way, and to different degrees. ALL people have different ways of being though certainly no one is “better” than the next person. If we feel with our hearts and souls while helping people through tough times, in whatever way makes sense at the time, the world will be a better place!
Our time on the planet is all-together too short to waste on efforts that take an extraordinary amount of time to prove one way or the other. Often, by the time double blind studies are concluded, methodologies have changed. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a Polyanna, with an altruistic view, and I do believe in research with a true return on investment. I propose that we focus to create a better overall society that promotes everybody flourishing.
Autism is not a disease, an illness or a disorder, it’s a different order and people on the spectrum as well as other spectrums, are wonderful souls and deserve the best, most successful lives, whatever that might look like. Thanks for being you, John!
CEO, AUTISM TODAY