Sunday, April 1, 2012

Autism Acceptance and Heaven

Two and a half years ago, when Danny was diagnosed with autism, I had many insightful friends who warned me that I would most likely experience the 5 stages of the grieving process.  They told me my anger was normal and might last a while.  That, I could believe.

They also informed me that eventually I would move to the acceptance phase.

This, I wasn't buying.  I was pretty sure I'd be pissed off for the rest of my life.  After all, it was so unfair to Danny that he was saddled with this difficult trial.  I couldn't seem to let go of the resentment and feeling of utter injustice.

Well, lately, I've been seeing it in an entirely different light.  And a conversation I had with my husband made me realize I'm no longer angry.

For whatever reason, Bil and I were discussing Heaven. One of the teachings of my church is that when we die, we will all be resurrected with a perfect, whole body.  No more diabetes or heart problems or acne (at least I'm hoping!  Of course, I'm also hoping this means I will finally have the body of a size 2 model, but that seems doubtful).  As we discussed this doctrine, Danny's autism came up. Bil said he assumed this meant Danny would no longer be autistic in Heaven.

Surprisingly, I disagreed.  Bil mentioned all the difficulties Dan has because of his autism. And this is when I realized that just about every single difficulty that my son experiences comes from society and the way people treat each other, not because of the autism itself.  He gets frustrated because of all the sensory overload he's exposed to on a regular basis

I imagine that in Heaven (or in the ideal world), there will be no sensory over stimulation--no bright lights and loud noises, no foul smells or circuses, no scary Easter Bunnies expecting you to sit on his lap for pictures, and no teachers repeatedly nagging and hounding him  giving oral instructions when I've told them to use visual aids a million times. I mean, really how hard can it be to use a couple visual aids to help a kid who is seriously overwhelmed?  What is the problem, people?


And I imagine in Heaven, people will love each other and accept each other unconditionally, so I assume Danny will have loads and loads of friends, because we'll all be so much smarter there.  We'll see each other the way God sees us, which means people will clearly see my son's awesomeness and will be drawn to his terrific sense of humor and sense of adventure.  Also, they will probably come to him for computer help, because he rocks the computer, and Heaven will definitely have computers and blogs and Twinkies, I don't care who says we won't need food.  How could it be Heaven with no chocolate?  Tell me that.

I digress.

This conversation was actually very eye-opening for me.  Years ago, I was the one who was desperate for a cure for Danny.  I was the one who was railing against God for giving him these "problems."  I was so very, very angry about it all.

And now?  Now, I'm beginning to see it's not really autism that is the enemy.  It's ignorance and intolerance, it's people who will not listen to Danny and see what his real needs are.  It's people who look down on any person who happens to be different.  That's why I am done advocating for Autism Awareness.  Instead, I want to work towards a world that is not just aware of autism, but accepting.

Because Danny?  Well, I would say he's perfect just the way he is.


Note:  I have seen many of the blog posts out there that are raising controversial topics.  I just want you to know I am in no way judging how you feel about autism.  I have been angry.  I have been known to say "I hate autism."  I only wrote this post because I'm so relieved and surprised to feel the way I do.  But this doesn't mean I think it's all roses and candy and unicorns.  I know having a kid with autism (or even having it yourself) can be heartbreaking and difficult.

This post only reflects how I am feeling right now, not how I think everyone should feel.


Tanis said...


Lisa said...

Amen! I like your version of Heaven...

Stimey said...

It's funny, because I don't believe in heaven, but I believe in everything you say here. This post is perfection.

Mom2LittleMiss said...

I think you really hit on what the whole "autism acceptance" argument is about. Thank you!

Sprite's Keeper said...

Completely agree and am willing to shout it from the mountaintops!
I've felt with some conditions, we need to focus more on how to live with it rather than yell out for a cure and do nothing else. Besides, if you ask 10 different people to define the word "normal", you would get 10 different answers.

gretchen said...

First, I just want to give you a big hug. You are brave and strong, and inspiring. Second, I too love your vision of heaven. I always imagine it as being "held in the arms of love". Does that make sense? Anyway, Danny is lucky to have you.

Heather said...

I love this! I fully agree that Eli would be a different person in a different society. He's different at home where we understand him - why wouldn't he be different somewhere where everyone understands him! Thanks so much for sharing your positive thoughts :)