Wednesday, April 13, 2011

autism awareness: how do we determine the value of an individual?

I've had a thought bouncing around in my head for a while now. It has to do with how we, as a society (and as individuals) determine the value of others. My thinking actually begins at the end. As in, one day, we will all die. Every last one of us (anti-aging regimens be damned). Whatever you believe happens after that is irrelevant. At some point, you will shed your mortal coil and that will be the end of your story (here on earth anyway). Very few of us will be remembered. I suspect even Elvis will be forgotten in 50 years. Knowing this, that we are the most valuable we will ever be at this very moment, I ask you again, 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.


  1. Very well said, Kat. (she says as she wipes tears from her eyes)

  2. Awh, thanks Jen. Glad you liked it.

  3. Anonymous2:15 p.m.

    Beautiful perspective.

    Love you, KB.


  4. I totally loved this, reposted on my facebook, thanks!!

  5. Very thoughtful and thought-provoking, Kat. And nicely written, as always. Sadly, I think that generally people do look upon our kids as being of a lesser "value." But as you say, I think your Max and mine and other kids who may or may not be named Max can change perceptions in the circles we travel in...and blow up the stereotypes. Ka-POW!

    I also think that as parents, teaching our kids to value themselves and their accomplishments is the most critical thing we can do. Giving them the confidence to succeed on their own terms is everything. The values others place on them are, ultimately, meaningless. I have also learned, over the years, not to project my own ideas of happy or worth on my son.

    As long as our kids grow up to be happy, well, that is what matters most. Right?

  6. Anonymous10:41 a.m.

    Beautiful Picture

  7. What a powerful post! I think this month should be just as much about Acceptance as it is about Awareness. Accepting that its ok to be a bit different. Accepting that we can all contribute to others. Accepting that we all deserve to be happy in our own ways.

    Max is adorable!

    I'm dedicating my blog all month long to Autism Awareness.