To Rosie O’Donnell from an Autism Mom: WTF?

February 9, 2016

zorroGirl, dafuq?

So you crack a joke about wanting to trade each of your troublesome teens for “triplets with autism.” Then you get all prickly when the joke bombs.

At first, I think, Oh bless her heart. She has no filter. No braking mechanism. No working prefrontal cortex.

Rosie, darling, I need you to know I usually take your side. You’re an Irish girl from New York with a mouth on her. You look like you could be my cousin. We had the same unfortunate hairstyle in the ‘80s. Plus, I’m an adoptive mom, too.

But . . .  I just can’t let this one slide.

Don’t defend your joke; it’s indefensible. I think we pretty much all agree that autism isn’t funny. People who happen to have autism — well, some of them are funny as hell, but that’s their personality. As a catchall . . . just, no.

rosieSomehow we have enough “autism awareness” that the word autism had made its way into the vernacular as an insult, a slur. But we still don’t have enough knowledge about what it really is, what it involves, what it costs, and how it affects people. And not just the individuals affected, but their families and their communities, from schools to Little League teams, to churches. Although, the way numbers are rising, everyone will have a walk-in-my-shoes understanding of autism soon enough. Meanwhile, it’s Not. A. Joke. And I think you know that.

Oh wait, I forget. There are still so many comedians who didn’t get that memo: like Amy Schumer and Lisa Lampinelli. And then there are all those who use the R word and autism as interchangeable terms . . .

So here’s the memo: Stop.

Since when is it okay to make jokes about intellectual disabilities, brain damage, seizures, the inability to effectively communicate, crippling anxiety, dysregulated sensory systems, poop smearing, self-injurious behavior, sleep disruption, disruptive and obsessive self-stimulatory behavior?

I’ll tell you: NEVER.

It’s cheap. It’s beyond juvenile. Making fun of people with disabilities was never funny, not even on the playground when you were a kid who didn’t know any better. It’s not even low-hanging fruit. It’s lazy and mean and it’s bullying. It’s a total asshole move.

Memo #2: Don’t be an asshole. That should the be 11th commandment.

amy schumer

Amy Schumer

Before I break this down any further, I just want to say that I can name several families that have three or four kids with autism (who are hip-deep in caretaking and therapy, so they missed the gossip) and I could probably find a family with affected triplets. If you feel moved to help them in any meaningful way . . . Team TMR can make that happen.

As for the rest of it, get some help. I’m an adoptive mom of two kids with developmental and attachment issues. One was probably exposed to drugs in utero, and one is a walking primal wound. But with focused, appropriate attention, their issues aren’t hopeless or cast in stone. If you take these kids on, which you did, you don’t get to throw your hands up in the air and get all “Woe is me, it’s not fun anymore . . . it’s haaaaard. I’d rather go have a fun, new baby with my fun, new wife.” (Do I even have to point out how that’s another asshole move?)

Lisa Lampanelli

Lisa Lampanelli

It’s kind of like autism in that way. Focused, appropriate intervention can make a huge difference in the quality of life for kids diagnosed with autism. Some of them even recover and lose the autism label completely, like my oldest kid. (Oh wait, I, myself, have three kids with serious issues, including one who had a full autism diagnosis. And . . . still no. That joke was not funny.)

I’m not going to dump on you any more and walk away. I really don’t roll like that. I’m part of Team TMR, and we’re here to help.

Step One: If you can’t help your kids, or don’t think you can, please look after yourself. It’s kind of the theme over here. You’re a trauma survivor raising trauma-survivor kids. That’s not going to be a walk in the park, but it’s possible. Teenagers can be a total pain in the ass; they’re teenagers. But teens with extra baggage need extra: extra love, extra time, extra patience, extra understanding — just extra. Please don’t throw them under the bus because it’s hard.

So what could you do that might help? Look into some of these. Trauma and PTSD can trigger ongoing physical changes in the brain and in biochemistry. There are ways to address and release trauma without having to relive it.

Also, I can recommend lots of books from Learning the Dance of Attachment to Transforming the Difficult Child and The Mood Cure.

Step Two: As hard as it is, admit you made a bone-headed move. You are frustrated with your kids, and your mouth engaged too quickly. It happens when the ol’ frontal lobes aren’t doing their job. Also, every thought you have doesn’t need to be spoken into a microphone. I have slow prefrontal cortex response myself, and I thank God I don’t have access to a microphone. But you, my dear, do. And that gives you a platform, a responsibility, and an opportunity. Make the most of it.

This right here is one of those opportunities to do something good out of a misstep. Have your people call my people.

~ Zorro

For more by Zorro, click here.

Photo of Lisa Lampanelli is from Getty Images.

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22 Responses to To Rosie O’Donnell from an Autism Mom: WTF?

  1. Rose says:

    I have been reading all of your stories and I myself don’t have a special needs child but all of you are super parents and I take off my hat to each and everyone of you, I can only imagine how hard it is for you. you are special god bless.

  2. I have autistic triplets (well surviving quads actually) and no, it’s not fun, or a joke. I wish they were just normal kids but they are not. My daughter is a wanderer. Thankfully, at eight, it is not as bad but when she was younger she would disappear. I know she gave me grey hair by disappearing (she LOVES water) and running in front of moving cars! Rosie is, yet again, being a big mouth. She should just apologize.

  3. Kimberly Nielsen says:

    I also am an autism MOM. I also have teens. My autistic son quite often is easier than the teens. Maybe she has known and loved someone with autism and knows it’s not a death sentence, it doesn’t always mean poop smearing, many are very affectionate and capable of living a full life. Having a teenager that’s running away with strange men online might make me to joke that I’d sooner have another autistic child. She didn’t say she’d rather her children have cancer. My autistic son and grown nephew now that they are older NEVER do rebellious things. They don’t swear, drink, smoke, or do things that would potentially damaging actions that would effect them for the rest of their life. They’re respectful, sweet, and differently abled.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      No one said or implied that autism was a death sentence (though it does increase the risk of death in children, mostly due to wandering behavior and co-occurring health conditions). YOU have a child with autism. It is fine for YOU to compare your own children if you wish to (though I generally find that comparison is never a great idea). Rosie DOESN’T have such children. She is merely assuming that children with autism are so much easier than her children are that she could handle THREE of them instead of any one of her teenagers. That is beyond ignorant and insulting to both children with autism and the parents who struggle to care for them.

  4. Megan says:

    As the mum of a autistic girl, I applaud you, people unless they walk a mile in our shoes should not be passing rash judgements and making fun of those that the world has made different,see a person’s ability Not their disability

  5. Kim mcclain says:

    There’s a woman who has triplets with autism on my fb page who wants to take Rosie up on her offer.

    Help us get this msg to Rosie.

  6. John Kirton says:

    As a dad of six children with Autism I feel I must weigh in here as well. When someone has no idea what they’re talking about they make some pretty dumb statements. Thinking mom is spot on here! I especially like the “No working prefrontal cortex” comment. I would gladly exchange the “problems” that Rosie is experiencing. One day those children will be grown up and out of her hair having passed the teenage years. As any parent of a severely autistic child knows, you will be that child’s caregiver, forever. And your Aspergers kiddos provide plenty of entertainment as well. No breaks, no understanding, not much sympathy and financial struggles to boot. I hope an apology is given, but if not we will continue to be the best parents that our children deserve.

  7. cambria says:

    Hi well said I have learning disability and my 10 year son has Autism it is very hard at times. My son is funny happy boy no different for anyone else he has feelings.He knows he is smart he is a good reader.

  8. Lisa says:

    As an adoptee, I love that you acknowledge adoption is traumatic and adoptees are dealing with PTSD. And it’s great you’re promoting EMDR. I know several adoptees who are benefiting hugely from it. I hope to be one of them at some point.

    I know Rosie really screwed up with the autism community with her latest comments, but she’s been royally pissing off the adoptee community for quite some time so it’s always nice to see other groups calling her on her bs.

  9. Sandra says:

    Well said. My son has Down syndrome, many Autistic characteristics, auditory delay, speech delay (possible dyspraxia), sensory processing complications and now Puberty. It is not only working through puberty but the impact it has on all the other stuff I thought I had a handle on. Poor Rosie … she is dealing with ignorance, her own.

    • ProfessorTMR says:

      Hey Sandra, it’s really good you mentioned puberty, because puberty is HUGE in the special-needs community (it’s pretty huge even in neurotypical kids, but the issues are much bigger when the other issues are involved). TMR is going to be coming out with a book on puberty written by a lot of special-needs moms who have been through it in the not-too-distant future. Watch for it!

      • Bonnie Bravata says:

        My Grandaughter has aspbuger and she will be 15 teen in a few months. My daughter has had to put her on birth control because Megan thinks it is alright to have sex she told me he loves me so why can’t I. We have talked till blue in the face and I don’t know how to handle this. One week she is in love with tom but oh that isn’t good any more now I love Steve . How do you teach a child like this it’s not love and you are going to have to watch what you do. She has now at 15 teen informed me and her grandfather she is ready to have a baby she wants her own to take care of. She is very nurturing and caring. I wanted to show her what it was so I ask her to change my grandsons diaper. She gagged and couldn’t do it but she said I can change him if he only pee’s. Any advice would be appreciated

  10. kelly says:

    unless you have walked the walk or been in our shoes DO NOT say things to ms rosie i say to you come stay with me for a day balance meds school melt downs ect i welcome into my home any any time if you dare

  11. Jackie Holmes says:

    Very well said! We have triplets, 2 have Autism (on different ends of the spectrum), the third & a younger brother are seen as NT (though having add & social anxiety is anything but typical). My kids are all teenagers, and I can tell Rosie, adding teen issues to the mix brings on a plethora of other factors & issues! Therapies, independent living skills, self-advocacy, etc. We can’t begin to financially cover services for all the issues my children need supports. If she can’t handle typical teenager issues, it is NOT any easier with Autism, triplets or combining both with being teenagers. And it’s insulting to suggest it is.

  12. Carla says:

    Well done. Thank you.

  13. Alison says:

    Bravo. This is beautiful and a reminder to everyone. Thank you for sharing your gentle and honest wisdom.

  14. Maryann Dutton says:

    As a mother of three children on the Autism Spectrum, I admire how gracefully and compassionately you confronted this issue. (Yes, your words have reached a mother with triplets affected by Autism. I have 5 year old triplets: 2 of them are affected by Autism, plus their 8 year old brother. My third triplet is neurotypically developing.) Even with so much Autism Awareness out there, most people don’t realize what is actually involved in parenting a child, let alone children, with Autism. Our family doesn’t do Little League, Soccer, etc…instead we do Speech and Occupational Therapy, Social Skills Training, etc. We don’t spend holidays with extended family because of the added stress involved. My children have yet to see a movie in a theatre which is not “Sensory Sensitive”. Having a child/ren with Specials Needs can be very isolating. Need I say it’s no laughing matter? On that note, may I share the hope that my beloved Rosie O. (as well as other comedians) would use her talents to promote not just Awareness, but Acceptance of Autism? And that first step would be to embrace, not laugh, at our struggles.

    • Margarte says:

      I really appreciate your message. We have one son with autism. I commend you for your work with your special children!! I agree it is isolating and hard work. You are doing great work!!

  15. Renee says:

    This is the greatest collection of advice that I have seen in one place for dealing with these types of issues! Thank you! For your solutions, Renee Beese

  16. Sherry Flamer says:


  17. Kathryn says:

    And for more information about homeopathy, (since there isn’t a link) go to

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