As our children are ‘labeled’ with Autism, there remains a stigma attached to any person who has a disability other than physical. This results in a huge number of parents who actually fight against getting the label of Autism for their kids. That single diagnosis could also translate into services and resources which would change the course of their child’s entire life. (Depending on the state where you live).
I was recently sitting in an emergency room waiting area with a woman who was complaining to another woman that her child had refused food for two days. I continued to observe and noticed that the young boy, 2, had no intelligible words. Each time she attempted to touch or kiss him he pulled away. Hardly able to breathe from seeing what I was seeing and knowing what I now know, I had to speak up.
I asked if her child was a picky eater, hated wearing clothes and preferred to play alone. Her answer was unequivocally, “yes!” I then asked more about his tantrums, need to ‘organize’ and other quirks. She agreed to every question for his age group on the list of Autism red flags, so I popped the big question. “Have you had your child screened for Autism?” From the looks of both women you would have thought I had just accused her of murder.
She belligerently replied, “my son has been seen twice by a doctor and he never said that. There’s nothing wrong with him, he’s just a slow talker.”
I realized that my insight was unwelcomed and I had stepped out of line. The ‘Autism’ label is not yet acceptable.
Our society is still viewing any diagnosis of impairment other than physical as a curse of doom. Awareness of Autism is on the rise but clearly not in the hands of our neighbors….yet.
Undiagnosed children, (persons), regardless of condition, are at far greater risk to themselves and others than a managed diagnosed person.
The fear of the labels attained by diagnosis is turning our culture upside down as it has for centuries.
Whether it be Autism, Bi-Polar or clinical depression, at least our Courts are starting to respect managed disabled persons.
While recently studying law, I learned of a violent man in family court defending his abuses by alleging horrible things about his soon to be ex wife, (though she was an excellent mother, high functioning and brilliant), simply because she was ‘bi-polar II, manic.’ (She’s in good company with the likes of Christopher Columbus, Lewis and Clark, etc…). Bi-Polars also get a very bad rap though there are millions of them functioning within our society. She replied calmly, “your honor, I am diagnosed and managing my disability, he refuses diagnosis.” That statement of fact combined with a string of protection orders against him left the door wide open to any combination of presumptions.
The court gave her sole custody and permission to relocate out of state with her older children and to get help for their Autistic son 3,000 miles away from him. The Commissioner saw greater stability in a person managing their disability than a violent person in denial.
He later followed her and within weeks was in trouble with the law again and had to flee from her new State.
He has pending charges.
He stopped making all contact with the child and quickly fell months behind in support. The same Court had to threaten contempt to garnish his Court ordered payments. He had no respect for the law.
In less than 6 months, he had lost it all, the family, the family home, his inheritance, 3 home businesses, her furniture, personal possessions and her vehicle. She had gladly surrendered her material things to him to facilitate her and the children’s exodus. She only cared about her children and their best interests.
His diagnosis remains unsought after and therefore unsolved.
The Court recognized the fact that an ‘undiagnosed’ person does NOT necessitate a ‘typical’ person. On the contrary undiagnosed persons have made up a tremendous part of the unemployed, uneducated, institutionalized, incarcerated and dysfunctional portions of our societies throughout history.
Failure to seek out correct diagnosis’ and ‘labels’ leads to needless destruction of lives. Denial is never good and stigmas can kill. Even the smallest of disabilities can amplify and cause damage to life if gone undiagnosed and/or untreated.
Some people are also quick to play self-proclaimed psychiatrists and think they know what a diagnosis or label means in others. Without the education, background or awareness in any given disability, they are usually wrong and will manipulate a label into ridicule, intimidation and an attack on the diagnosed person’s self esteem. This is all a part of the reason we as a society fear being diagnosed! We fear those who would use them against us in our jobs, communities, relationships and lives.
Though “we feel a change a comin’, it is not fully here yet. However, the fact that a Court protected neurologically impaired mom, who was managing her disabling condition, is a sign of hope.
As we as a society tear down the stigmas of mental, neurological and emotional deficiencies, we are clearing a brighter path for our children with Autism.
I applaud that Commissioner for acknowledging the strength of a responsible, managed affected mom. Additionally, her decision to allow the mom to relocate for the best interests of the child is land mark. The father proved his disconcern for the mother, his son, the law, his own short comings and the Court himself.
Mental, neurological and emotional disabilities, (when being treated), are not a carte blanche defense for proving any type of instability.
It would be nice if the woman in the emergency room would have a comfort zone with the truth about Autism and its wonderful, endless possibilities. The diagnosis and treatment of Autism would strengthen her own life and the life of her son. She too could be looking out for her own, and her child’s best interests.
Autism Awareness is coming…slowly.
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