Monday, March 31, 2008

The Face of Autism

Our Gavin at his 16th birthday party. He is delighted with the gifts from his Aunt Paula. Gavin has boundless energy, a big heart and a dual diagnosis of Autism/Developmental Delay. Gavin's life is full of challenges. We are fortunate to have loving and supportive family and friends on a difficult journey. Through the years we have met incredible professionals in education and the social services who have come to love our boy. Neighbours greet him and treat him with respect. Clerks and shop owners smile and ask after "the big kid".

However, the world is not always kind to Gavin and others like him. He has odd behaviors such as singing, reciting movie lines, writing furiously in the air or laughing uproariously at...well, at something he finds funny. People stare as if they have laid down their buck at a sideshow. Teenagers laugh and toss around the word "retard". Some pointedly remark that kids like that should be locked up or taken away from obviously bad parents. There seems to be an idea that people with intellectual disabilities have no comprehension or feelings and cannot be hurt by such rude, thoughtless behavior.

The rise in the number of people diagnosed as autistic has caused the United Nations to declare April 2nd to be "World Autism Awareness Day". Let's take a moment to realize that all the brave children shown in documentaries and on television will someday be adults with the same challenges and the same need for understanding.


  1. Well said, ma'am. As I have been working with an autistic boy recently, I have come to understand how much we can learn from these kids. A big heart and a positive spirit can make all the difference...for those with the disorder, and for those who love them.

    Cheers, Gavin!

  2. Hello Caftan Woman. I skidded here from Tracey's blog. My name is Brian. When I checked out your "About Me" page, my first thought was - we have very little in common. True enough. But then again, one never knows.

    I believe that we have Gavin in common. I am a recently retired (though I am now looking for employment) Special Education teacher. I taught autistic children for over twenty years and they taught me for more years than that. I have such an affinity for the autistic child and their families that I find it hard to describe. I don't know where it comes from but I enjoyed every minute of those difficult days at the blackboard (and often sitting on the floor for hours). I miss them but I have no desire to teach again. I absolutely hate the hoops they make teachers jump through to just be in the classroom. When you find someone who loves the job and the kids and is committed and doing excellent work, get out their way and let them teach! I went to far. My point is that I am a supporter of your life, even though I've never met you or Gavin. Bravo!

    In 1988, I wrote a poem for the Autism Society of America. I was told that it was adopted as their official poem but I have no way of knowing that it still exists in their world. I give it to you and Gavin now. Be happy.


    Born unusual in a usual world.
    Described in terms that you will never understand.
    By existing, you stir your mother’s heart.
    Sighs of pity resonate in your presence.
    All feel responsibility,
    None accept your reality.
    I give you what I can,
    You take what you want.
    All Angels do this.

    Will you ever awaken?
    Are we the sleepers?
    Is there hope for you?
    Do you wish hope for us?
    Is this a holy punishment?
    Is a pure heart a divine penalty?
    Have we set you apart,
    Or set you aside?

    I love you
    In spite of your flightless wings,
    Your halo’s tilt.
    For it is not the wing that makes one soar,
    It is the soul.

  3. Note to godinla: Brian, as a regular reader of Tracey's blog I have already been exposed (happily exposed) to your silliness. We might pass each other on the street thinking "nothing in common", but it's true one never knows.

    Your poem made me cry.

  4. I was overjoyed to see the picture of Gavin and myself. I am overjoyed to be his Aunt Paula, and I am amazed by you!



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