Two incidents in recent days have driven home, once again, for Canadian parents of autistic children the harsher realities of autism. An autistic boy was banned from school in Etobicoke because of his autistic challenges even though the school had not provided autism trained assistants and the body of a young autistic boy, Adam Benhamama, was found and identified after he had been missing for several weeks and, as feared, was found to have drowned.
News of such events may come as a surprise to many in the public for whom autism is seen as just a different personality type, a misconception created by the rhetoric of the persons, some of whom have no actual autism diagnosis who describe autism as a different, even superior, way of life. In Canada, the misrepresentation of autism disorders is so widespread that even a prominent politician like Conservative heavyweight James Moore has stated publicly that autism is not a disability.
Autism has not always been the autism of Michelle Dawson, Ari Ne'eman, John Elder Robison or Roy Richard Grinker. At one time, before the word "autism" became a badge for some very high functioning persons who identified with the word autism, it was known for what it was, a neurological disorder that restricts the lives, can even end the lives, of those who suffer from it. Like many parents of children severely affected by actual Autistic Disorder, I have watched in dismay as successful, high functioning persons have appropriated the label autism and misrepresented it to the public, in the process obscuring the harsh realities endured by those with actual, classic low functioning Autistic Disorder.
A number of years ago we almost lost our son, diagnosed with Autistic Disorder, assessed with profound developmental delays, when he wandered from our home and crossed busy nearby streets, including the bustling parking lot of a nearby drinking establishment while I was distracted by a business call at home. I can not mention this incident without giving public thanks to the unknown and caring man who got out of his vehicle and took my son, who was blocking traffic in a nearby street, to a local convenience store where the police were called. The gentleman waited until I arrived before turning abruptly, without identifying himself, and without waiting for a thank you, and left the store.
The intense feelings of that day, the fear, the guilt, the enormous relief on knowing my son was safe ... the gratitude to his unknown benefactor ... will never leave me. Nor can I ever buy into the dangerous nonsense peddled by those who build careers for themselves portraying autism as anything but what it is .... a disabling disorder which can restrict and even end lives.