Monday, April 12, 2010

Autism in the Real World

Jodi Picoult has a new book, House Rules, that debuted at # 1 on the New York Time's Best Seller's List. Ms. Picoult is a wildly popular novelist. She's Harvard educated so I'm sure she did her homework on the subject of her latest novel.

Her latest novel focuses on Emma, a single mother of two sons. One son has Asperger's and he is accused of murdering his tutor.

Wow! Sounds like a real page-turner.

Ok, Here's my thing. Popular culture is aware of our kids. Grassroots efforts to raise awareness is working and working well. But why is it that when the autistic are represented in novels or in movies or television shows, we only see those who have Asperger's.

Is it because those with Asperger's are "higher functioning?" Is it because they are more easily understood by those in middle America? Because we all know that those in middle America are a bit slower than the rest of America, but they are the group that marketeers most want to reach. Is it because the quirks of Asperger's is neater, cleaner, more socially accepted?

There have been people who ask me about my son. They will sometimes ask me with a hopeful look on their face if my son has Asperger's. When I say no, they might respond with "too bad"

I guess Asperger's is the good kind of autism.

I'm here to tell you people that there is is no good kind of autism. One's life is not defined by where they fall on the spectrum. One's potential is not defined by where they fall on the spectrum.

I challenge those creative types in the creative world. You want to do the world a favor by including families living with autism in your ad campaigns and in your movies? Show it like it is. Show the career woman who had to end her career because the demands of caring for a child with autism and the demands of corporate america don't mix. Show a commercial for pull-ups large enough to fit an 8 year old who just started potty training ( and give us deep discount coupons while you're at it) Show a marriage that crumbled under the strain. Show the life of a neurotypical middle school kid who wants nothing more than to live in a normal house with a normal family with a normal sibling. Show is that!


Autism Reality NB said...

One's potential is not defined by where they fall on the spectrum?

With all respect I disagree. My 14 year old son is severely autistic, with Autistic Disorder and "profound developmental delays".

He has limited communication abilities verbal OR by any other means. And he has limited understanding of the world or even the realities of the dangers posed by daily life such as automobile traffic.

I have in the course of 12 years of advocacy visited adults with severe autism living in mental health hospital facilities in New Brunswick Canada.

I wish the best for your son but why try to say that your son and mine face the same challenges, have the same potential in life?

They don't.

Kelly Yates-Rice said...

Hi and thank you for your comment.

My son is also severely autistic. He also has profound developmental delays. He is 5. He doesn't speak often. He has very little in the way of what most call communication skills. He has some self help skills, but no where near what a typical 5 year old should have. My son will smear poop everywhere if I don't remember to put a belt on him to keep his pants on. He'll sing all day or tweat, He'll stim. He has to be monitored constantly.

No two kids are alike. The realities within our families are different. Our sons may not have the same potential, but they do have potential.

Anonymous said...

I know where you are coming from, this world needs to show all sides of autism, not just the "glory" high functioning side. My daughter is lower functioning, we get all the "what gifts does she have" or "can she do card counting?" what? No my daughter can't even wipe her own butt let alone understand what a card is!

One of my favorite movies, I love to watch, which shows the severe side of autism is "Black Balloon" an Australian based movie, that portrays severe autism to a tee in my humble opinion.

I saw your profile said you are New Jersey Based, ever look into an organization called, from what I've heard has a lot of families dealing with the severe side of autism as well! Family friends of ours live there, and have told us the many events coming up apart of POAC for children who are on the spectrum. I live over in langhorne, PA, in times like these, I wish there were more places to take our children.

Kelly Yates-Rice said...

Hi Anonymous-

I am a member of POAC. I haven't been to any of their functions yet. I'm looking forward to their beach bash in September.

I use to live in Bucks County. My daughter and I spent many Saturdays at the Oxford Valley Mall.

I haven't watched The Black Balloon yet. I'll look for it on Netflix.

Amy said...

One word - AMEN!

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