Wednesday, April 13, 2011
autism awareness: how do we determine the value of an individual?
I'm a parent of a child with Autism. I have assembled a team of people to work with my son, to help him develop skills and coping mechanisms so that he can fit into "the norm". So that he can be "average". So that we can all be more comfortable around him. But mostly, because I want for him to live a happy and fulfilled life, whatever that looks like. Does he, as a person who has Autism, have less value than someone who runs a Fortune 100 company? Is he any better or worse? More or less worthy of love? Are his ideas of less value? If the way you determine a person's "value" is by what he or she does to earn money, does that idea hold true when you come back to the fact that one day, we will all die.
My daughter Cameron may end up having a more successful career, more friends, and maybe even have her own family if that is something she decides she would like. If Max does not end up having a fancy job, or a lot of friends, or get married, does that mean that his life is of less value than Cameron's? That he has contributed less to society? Will he only be considered a success story if he "beats" Autism and becomes an engineer or an architect? Have we been taught that to be truly successful one has to overcome his or her perceived disabilities or do things that average people can do to prove one's worth? I wonder.
Max, with his bright eyes and winning smile, has done a lot more in his 5 years on this planet than many people will do in their entire lifetimes. He has taught me how to love in a way I never would have known if it weren't for him. He has opened up the hearts of everyone he has met and helped so many people understand more about Autism. I have no idea what the future has in store for us. But perhaps changing my focus to the idea that we are the most valuable we will ever be at this very moment, regardless of our present or future achievements, will help me worry less about the future and embrace Max for everything he is today.