The old African proverb “it takes a village to raise a child” appears to be truer now than ever before. With the 1 in 88 autism statistic already outdated, and the autism community clearly growing in size and stature, children today need a wide variety of supports and services in order to thrive and function to the best of their abilities. Yet when you talk with the parents of children with autism, you discover that many of these children are not able to access the resources they desperately need.
“There is power in numbers and there is power in unity.” –Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
With the 1 in 88 statistic, and with most of us knowing that the numbers are in fact far worse for younger cohorts, it would seem that the autism community should wield a great deal of power and influence. Yet we have very little power right now. Vaccines containing toxins and hazardous ingredients are still given to children by the dozen. The cost of organic, whole foods – the backbone of good health — is out of reach for many parents in our struggling economy today. Most of our pediatricians admit to not knowing what to do to help a child with autism, leaving parents to research treatments and therapies. Most parents discover that the most successful treatments and therapies are not covered by their health insurance, which in turn leaves many parents with mounting medical bills that threaten, if not annihilate, their financial security (if they even had financial security to begin with).
About a year before I got pregnant with my daughter, I attended a professional conference for which Carol Gilligan, author of In A Different Voice, was a keynote speaker. She noted that her latest research revealed that our society no longer had a collective voice or sense of common purpose. She continued that without a collective voice and action toward a shared cause, very little change could be made. Today, living the exhausting, hopeful, frustrating and blissful life of an autism mother, Carol Gilligan’s fears frighten me. Lack of change leaves an overwhelming sense of foreboding for the futures of children yet to be born. Arguably it could threaten the very existence of our society. Despite the bleak outlook of this fear, I am hopeful that the autism community will soon find its collective voice, its power in numbers and its power in unity to ultimately prevail in achieving access to all of the various things our children need to heal and thrive in life.
I have never met better people or friends than I have in the autism community. Passionate, loving, resourceful, hopeful, intelligent, determined and unwavering in their efforts to heal their children, the autism parent is a formidable force of nature. One can only imagine what could be accomplished if all autism parents came together for the greater good of all children. Seriously. Take a moment and just imagine.
So, what is it that gets in our way? There is diversity in our community that is not fully embraced by everyone. In order to truly effect meaningful change, we need to find a way to support a whole community while still allowing room for individual differences. ABA is not better than Son-Rise or FloorTime. GAPS is not better than LOD or SCD. Speech therapy is not better than occupational therapy. DAN is not better than homeopathy. HBOT is not better than MB12. GcMAF is not better than AC Chelation. All of these treatments (and more!) exist and offer hope and healing to many children. There is no one treatment that will work for every child (save for unconditional love and the steadfast belief in your child’s limitless potential — that one works for every kid and it’s free!).
I have witnessed a great deal of criticism of parents by parents. “I can’t believe s/he spent the money on that!” “What are they thinking going that route? I’d never do that!” To be sure, everyone is entitled to an opinion. But when opinions begin to splinter an already marginalized community, there is little good that can come from sharing them. There is little good that can come from criticizing the efforts parents make to heal their children. Almost everyone I have ever met in my life has said, “no one knows a child better than that child’s parent.” Let’s all do more to honor that!
The bottom line is that we all want a better life for our children, and there are many different ideas as to what that better life looks like. There are many different paths to that better life. Some people (if not all) want better health. Some people want better supports. Some people want better therapies. Some people want access to alternative therapies. Some people want better services. Some people want better choices all around. All of us want acceptance and support as we move forward in the journey of healing our children, regardless of how different or similar our paths may be.
This is our shared cause: a better life for our children. Let’s work hard to remember that and come together to offer support coupled with meaningful action for our community as a whole, while working hard to allow that important space for individual differences. There is power in numbers and there is power in unity. Let’s come together now! We can do this! We shall prevail!
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