I don’t know if you ever saw this interview with me and my son, Jonathan in this live PBS Award Winning Special Documentary Series produced by WLIW New York, the third largest PBS station in the nation, titled “HEALTHY MINDS”.
I thought I’d share an interview Jonny and I did for one of PBS’ top stations, WLIW in New York City. I hope you will forgive me a moment of maternal pride. Those of you who know me know how silly I can be about my kids. But I share these stories because I am a true believer – in all children with autism, in YOUR child who, for now, may seem still locked inside. As a gemologist, my favorite analogy is a gemstone – every one of these kids has a beautiful diamond, or nugget of gold, buried under those complex behaviors. I am here to say: Together, you will find a way to unlock that precious inner beauty.
Anyway, one of PBS’ many award-winning programs is PBS Healthy Minds, a production of WLIW21, in New York City, one of PBS’ flagship stations a series hosted by Dr. Jeffrey Borenstein, a distinguished board certified psychiatrist, CEO and Medical Director of Holliswood Hospital, editor of Psychiatric Quarterly, and a distinguished psychiatrist specializing in autism and other neurological disorders. Doctor Borenstein had heard about Jonny’s story and invited us to the show specifically to hear from Jonny. I just came along for the ride! I am so proud of Jonny’s ability to present himself on national television. In our case, it illustrates the wonderful results early intervention can produce.
Right now, the world is just beginning to scratch the surface of autism understanding and it is of extreme urgency to note,that when society does finally wakes up and sees that train coming,there is something they can do about it. People will desperately want to know what the future might look like for their children and families so they don’t give up hope. That was my very first question to the doctor when I received that mysteriousautism diagnosis over 18 years ago! What will happen to Jonny? What will he do? Where will he live? Will he ever get married and have kids, and so on. All the doctor could do was give me a blank stare and say “I don’t know”. That has become my life’s mission to never, ever, have another parent feel my sense of loss and frustration.
Jonny was that child who did not make eye contact, spun in circles, rocked back and forth, watched the same movie over and over and over, who crossed a busy street barefoot in the snow in diapers, who walked home 5 miles in his bathing suit on a frigid October snowy Canadian night explaining “Don’t worry mom, I took all the back roads so the strangers wouldn’t get me!” and other situations too numerous to mention though I’m sure you can imagine what they are.
Regardless where your child is on the spectrum, there IS definitely hope! I can fill countless pages displaying perfect examples of successful outcomes of individuals on the autism spectrum. For instance, Dr. Stephen Shore who received his doctorate and is now a Professor at Adelphi University in New York, Jerry Newport, a brilliant person who recently won a prestigious award for being a math savant and is also the subject in the movie, “Mozart and the Whale”, Dr. Michael McManmon, Founder and President of the College Internship Program delivering the message of acceptance, love and diversity specializing in autism education, Seth Chwast, JA Tan and Mark Rimland, Award winning artists extraordinaire, Donna Williams, artist and author, Nobody Nowhere, Dr. Temple Grandin, President, Grandin Livestock and subject of 7 time Emmy Award winning movie “Temple Grandin” and countless other individuals too numerous to mention that cover the entire range of the spectrum.
The message I want to deliver to you today is to never give up hope! In the world today, though autism can be a very debilitating and challenging issue, it is paramount that we all come together as the voice of the community to recognize and passionately embrace the brilliance, strengths and talents that people on the autism spectrum possess.
Autism crosses all boundaries culturally, socio-economically, politically, and geographically! I believe wholeheartedly that our children and adults on the autism spectrum are here to teach us the lessons of unconditional love, patience, empathy and how to connect our world at the souls level. Consider the possibility that our children are here to help connect us at the heart level,to shatter the illusion of separation amongst all human beings because after all, we are all connected.
Always believe in your child and love them until their fur rubs off like in the book, “The Velveteen Rabbit” because in the end, that’s what life is all about. I encourage you to meet my son, Jonny, in action in this live PBS interview with Dr. Jeffery Borenstein. I hope it changes your life’s dreams.
Have a look! Autism Today PBS Special – Healthy Minds
For answers to life’s questions that other parents and professionals are asking us about the future of autism please refer to our best seller,
“Autism Tomorrow”: Autism Tomorrow
To all of you, thank you again for being a part of the Autism Today family.
CEO, Autism Today
Co-Author, Chicken Soup for the Soul, Children with Special Needs