I've given National Poetry month some attention recently but April is also Autism Awareness month. If you are interested in autism or live with someone "on the spectrum", you will be interested in this series of interviews with author Rupert Isaacson, who, among other things traveled to Mongolia to seek treatment for his son Rowan's autistic symptoms. His book The Horse Boy has recently been made into a documentary with the same title.
As an educator with significant experience and training in autism spectrum disorders, I've developed a simple philosophy around it. I believe that every child diagnosed with ASD can be reached. What it takes is parents who follow their heart and gut when it comes their child and an educational and/or therapeutic environment (that could include the outdoors as a classroom) that supports it. When the public school system can't or won't see things the parents' way, they have to be pushed and prodded and even, at times, threatened. I personally would not put my own child (autistic or neurotypical) in the hands of any public school system without careful evaluation of what is going on there. I'm sad to say, it is more often than not that this happens to our children.
A bold approach to diet and health can't hurt either, if it's implemented as a result of careful investigation and consultation with an expert who is on the same page as the parents. And as always, a close connection to the child that allows you to pay attention to their needs.
Clearly, most parents can't afford to up and move to Mongolia to treat their child's autism but I think the Isaacsons have the right idea. It's too bad that people can't see what they can do for their children when the resources are often right under their noses.
I don't have any particularly strong stances against the major autism groups such as Autism Speaks or Autism Society of America but at my core, I don't care for the puzzle piece as a symbol for autism. I can understand the reason for choosing a recognizable logo that represents a complex neurological condition but I can't see defining any group of people as a"puzzle". I believe it actually sends the wrong message to people who do not know anyone with autism - that they are too complex to get to know and like. Autism is complex but people who live with it have the same needs as everyone else. They respond to humor, attention, and intellectual stimulation; and most universally, they respond to love and inclusiveness. We all need those things to live happy lives and to grow to our "personal best" potential.Therefore, I prefer the autism rainbow.
I'll be writing more about autism in the coming weeks and perhaps more often, always. As it should be when one cares a lot about something!
Peace, love and all groovy things,
Now for the interview.