It isn't important until it happens to you.
It is human nature to not appreciate or try to understand something until it affects you or someone close to you. It is understandable that with so many things vying for your attention, those that do not directly apply to you will not be the first to catch your eye. So it is with me and autism. My 9 yd old son, Rhys, was recently diagnosed and while a school friend has an autistic son and often posts about him, it is only now that it is different for me.
Unlike previous generations, thanks to the mighty Google-machine, research can be done while sat on the sofa watching sports and while not all information online is completely accurate or even makes sense, with enough cross referencing and opinions from respected websites and people, you can begin to draw your own opinions and conclusions. Even without being focused on it, I knew that Jenny McCarthy, famous for once being a Playboy model and dating Jim Carrey, claimed that her son ‘got’ autism from getting vaccinations and that changing his diet ‘cured him’. Having a basic high school education, I had quickly drawn my own conclusions about what miss McCarthy was saying and disregarded it just as quickly.
It is pretty common to look for others with the same condition when something like this happens, and I am nothing if not pretty common. Again, letting my fingers do the walking I soon came up with a pretty impressive list of such famous people with autism as actress Daryl Hannah, singer Courtney Love (perhaps not the best example I could find), director Tim Burton (Have you seen his movies?). Satoshi Tajiri created Pokemon although I am not sure if this is a good thing or not. Adam Young of Owl City is Autistic. I don’t know what kind of music Owl City makes but I am pretty sure it isn’t my kind. Dan Akroyd, fellow Canadian and musician, actor, funny man, Blues Brother and anything else you can think of. There seems to also be quite a few mass murderers but let’s gloss over that quickly.
In hindsight, it is believed that the following people also had some sort of autism. Vincent Van Gogh, Painter, Emily Dickenson, Poet, Isaac Newton, Physicist, Mozart, Composer, Hans Christian Anderson, Author, Mark Twain, Author, Richard Strauss, Composer, Alexander Graham Bell, Inventor, Albert Einstein, Physicist, Nikola Tesla, Scientist, Inventor, Electrical Engineer, Futurist, Jane Austen, Author, George Bernard Shaw, Playwright, Henry Ford, Industrialist. Never before has so many commas been used to describe so many geniuses! Of course in hindsight, watching Grown Ups should have been avoided.
So autism doesn’t so much define someone as become part of who they are and often helps them succeed and with the right support there should be nothing that is unattainable for someone with it. OK. That’s good.
But enough about my little freak (Dad, I am not crazy! I have autism!) of nature (just kidding) and back to the main plot. Today’s generation has access to information and the ability to learn and become an expert in nearly anything. Skunk Baxter, a guitarist with the Doobie Brothers, didn’t drink or party when touring so he read instead, and in doing so became one of the worlds top experts in missile defense. I kid you not, so whoever said that playing in a band wasn’t rocket science…….. There should be no obstacle to learning whatever you need to learn about a subject such as mental health. I am not going to become an expert as I have far too many distractions in my life but I am going to try and learn all I can in order to help my big lovable monkey have the happiest life possible.
I guess the moral of this story is to not wait until something becomes personal before getting involved. While no one can be expected to know everything about everything, if we all find something linked to us, no matter how tenuous the link, and learnt about it, who knows what we might achieve!