Friday, January 4, 2013

A Sign of Strength?

Let me preface this post by saying that I am not a “We can only write about good things when it comes to handling life with autism or an autistic loved one.” I am also not in the business of attacking parents or questioning their love for their children, parenting, etc. I think we are all far to quick to judge and call people names when we do not know their reality. As long as people are responsible and careful about what they write, I believe we can tackle any number of issues that arise and that others searching for answers may find comfort in knowing that they are not alone.

It was exactly that desire to draw comfort that drew me to a recent article on The New York Times website.


Now there is something I could use to read about. This couple has lasted 25 years, and they have an autistic son. I would love to know how they did it. I would love to be given some profound words of advice and a key or two at what I can do to make certain that my marriage doesn’t fizzle. My marriage isn’t perfect (whose is) and I am always looking for ways to be a better husband, partner and friend to my wife.

Unfortunately this article’s headline is very misleading. The article goes on to talk about many of the ways that autism stressed this couple out, but I don’t believe it shows even one example of how it strengthened their marriage. I see a lot of examples of how they rely on each other… but how has AUTISM helped to strengthen their marriage?

It really reads more to me like their marriage has survived DESPITE their child having autism.

The author notes that this article is a condensed version of a longer conversation, so I am wondering if this is just poor editing. I encourage you to read the entire article so that you get the tone of the article, but let me supply you with a few examples of what I find concerning…

The interviewer asks about the stress of the diagnosis and how this couple dealt with it. So again… going off of the TITLE of the article, I am looking for an example of strength. Instead we get that it is currently a nightmare, but thank goodness they have one another. Autism is not strengthening the marriage… their devotion to one another is.

PART of the reason the dad contemplated divorce was his autistic son. What was the other part? The stress his wife was under because… of his autistic son. In other words, it was ALL his autistic son.

Finally, we get some advice. But not about how autism has helped strengthen the marriage. The advice here is to try not to think about all the fun you are missing out on… because of your autistic child. Nancy is correct about maintaining balance. I do think that is important to keep in mind. However, we still have yet to see how autism itself has helped to strengthen their marriage.

We struggled with the decision to have our son, and quite frankly the decision was made for us. Oops! Sofie was born only a year and 22 days after Bianca and before she started to regress.

I have written about deciding to have other children when you have one on the spectrum. The paranoia about whether your child is or isn't autistic can rob you of enjoying your child’s development. You become hyper-focused on anything that could be a "red flag" that you focus on those moments and what they could mean as opposed to focusing on the present. Not because you would love your child any less if they were, but because you love your child so much that you don’t want things to be any more challenging for them than need be.

I think it is dangerous to even remotely suggest that a person is “stupid” for wanting to have more children when they already have one autistic child. That rubbed me the wrong way… and still no real signs of how autism has strengthened the marriage.

Here the reporter is trying to pull the information out of the parents… how has your child brought joy into your life? I am hoping this is an edit. There are a million things I could think of long before my child being the life of the party as to how my daughter brings me joy. I am just glad that Jay goes on to say that he is happy and proud that William is his son.

I have no doubt that these parents adore their son and that they are fine parents and good people. This article did them no justice. I want to emphasize that I am not really upset with the parents but rather the article itself. Maybe it is a bad headline editor, maybe it is poorly written or perhaps the reporter being the subject’s sibling places him to close to the source to write as clearly as he would if he didn't have a lifetime of understanding the subject. Maybe I am just sensitive about the sensitive about the subject because I do fear for my marriage at times.

While we all enjoy advice on making marriage work, there is one thing that I would like to point out. It is not up to our children to provide parents with a happy marriage, autism or not. A happy marriage comes from the parents and how WE play the hand that we are given. A happy marriage is a gift that we give our children, not the other way around. It is an example by which they will most likely base their future relationships upon.

If you were to ask me how autism has strengthened my marriage, I would tell you that it has taught me about unconditional love, persistence, insistence and communication and somehow this article comes up short on many of these points. And if heaven forbid my marriage ever does fail, I know I will never blame autism... I will blame my wife and I for not knowing how to properly handle the situation at hand.

If you have not already, please take time to watch my videos, "Fixing" Autism and Autism Awareness with Nichole337 and share them with your friends.

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