Just read this article about Toni Braxton (click here to read for yourself). This really disturbs me and saddens me at the same time. First, I do not believe any God would punish a child for anything their parents have done. Second, I do not believe Autism is a punishment for anyone. Is it a hard road sometimes? Yes! But to suggest that these kids are a punishment is tantamount to saying they are damaged and deficient and I do NOT for one minute believe that kids with Autism are deficient. We have so much to learn from Autism and I don't want to offend parents, but when you look at your child from a perspective of lack, suffering and sadness then of course Autism will feel like a punishment.
Please understand I am NOT diminishing anyone's experience because in my work, I see many parent's struggle, heartache and torment in trying to work out what is best for their child. I've watched them cry in dismay and wish for a child that was 'neurotypical'. But I've also witnessed parents express awe at what their child can do; light up when they try to explain who their child really is; and display frustration when no one else gets it.
Would we really wish Autism away and believe for a cure? That is a moot question and a question that merits so much more discussion. I for one would not want eradicate Autism. I've learned so much in the last 8 years from teaching children on the spectrum, that I can't imagine that I would have made such discoveries any other way. I've learned to not judge a book by it's cover; not everything is as it seems; to step outside of the box of my own 'teaching' philosophy; to be more creative and forward thinking as a teacher; that there is more than one way to learn; that these kids can teach me; that simple and quiet is sometimes better; and to never give up.
What we need instead, is AWARENESS!!!!!! UNDERSTANDING!!!!! & TOLERANCE!!!!!
Awareness that difference is ok and we can adjust to the difference. Understanding that what looks like 'negative' behaviour is behaviour that 1 tells us something and 2. may be causing pain for the child. Tolerance for difference, uniqueness and diversity. It would not hurt any of us to learn how to be more 'Autism friendly'.
I make no apologies for this rant, but if I could speak to Toni Braxton, I would tell her that her child is not a punishment but a blessing. Again, parents please let me reiterate that I know it's tough and difficult and might sometimes feel like the journey is a punishment, but at the same time I also know the joy, the delight and the fascination that is Autism.