Oct 31, 2011 0 Share

What Planet Are You From?


Illustration of solar system.
iStockphoto

They don’t call it a “spectrum” for nothing, do they? When it comes to discussing Cameron’s disabilities, I still find myself tap dancing a bit, especially when discussing it with someone within the Autism “community”. When speaking with parents of Cameron’s peers at school, there’s always that point in the conversation where I start feeling out their child’s capabilities as compared to Cameron’s. It’s not intended as a competitive comparison, but more of a need to find a baseline for where Cameron is compared to the herd. It’s inevitably a delicate conversation, because I feel I’m either going to be crushed by the realization that Cameron is far behind the curve, or I’m going to crush someone else when I highlight Cameron’s high degree of independence. When I read columns written by my colleagues at Autism After 16, I identify with bits and pieces, but usually am left comparing where Cameron is to the writer’s subject matter. Cameron is usually so far off in one direction or another from any other ASD person that I’ve started referring to it as the Autism “Galaxy” as opposed to “Community.”

I often feel Cameron is on a planet of his own in this galaxy. He’s like Pluto. Adorable, just like Mickey Mouse’s dog, but sometimes a planet, sometimes not, just kinda hanging out revolving around the sun, but at a much slower pace than those of us here on Earth. Coming from a planet of one, it’s impossible to find someone that speaks your language. But he’s adapting, as best he can. I’m no space explorer, but I suspect there are hundreds of planets in this Autism Galaxy, all very different from each other.

So what is there to learn from the vast differences I see among the planets? It’s much more than, “Man, I’m glad I don’t have to go there!” or “Wouldn’t it be nice if we were there instead?” Perhaps interplanetary travel will facilitate relocation to different planets.

Have I run this metaphor into the ground yet? Or am I digging myself into a black hole? My point is this: The more we talk to each other, the more we can learn. But in order to learn more, I realize I need to push myself beyond that social awkwardness and have the conversation without fear of offense. I don’t know that I would’ve realized that, had I not started this writing gig with AA16. In my enthusiasm for this website, I find conversations gravitating towards the issues facing the Autism Galaxy more and more. I feel a certain sense of relief coming from both sides of the conversation as the discussion takes place. Whereas before, it was a little like discussing religion or politics, now it’s more of an empowering feeling. Someone in the conversation has inevitably been there and done that, and the other participant in the conversation always welcomes details about that experience. But if I hold back, and fear I’ll appear less than adequate as a parent, or as a pushy know it all, I might as well be on a planet by myself. And what fun would that be?