Monday, August 20, 2012

Letter to a Radio Personality

It's morning, and we're on our merry little way to therapy. And by "merry" I mean, um, not. It's been a challenging morning.

I tune in to one of my favorite morning shows, and they are discussing (for whatever reason) Kanye West. I am half listening as little C chatters in the back seat, asking me to spell (again) every word that pops into his head.

Then I hear it. In discussing Kanye's ridiculous behavior in the whole Taylor Swift debacle, one personality says, "I mean, who does that? You've gotta have Asperger's or something...what are you, autistic?" I'm quoting loosely, but that was the gist of it.

I try not to overreact to things like this, but, well, your viewpoint changes when you have a special needs child, that's just how it goes. I can't say I've never said something stupid or insensitive in my life, that's for sure.

So it wasn't the words so much that bothered me (although they kinda did) because I know it wasn't MEANT to be hurtful. It was the tone. The implied, "What is WRONG with you?" tone.

My first reaction was anger. My BABY was in the back seat. My baby WITH AUTISM. Who is not, by the way, deaf. Many times, words seem to elude him, while MEANING conveys. He understands more than I give him credit for sometimes, but I pray this is one thing that goes sailing over his little head.

He is young yet, but I don't plan to make his autism some dirty little secret as he grows, because it doesn't deserve to be kept secret. It deserves to be discussed, questioned, even admired, because with as many challenges as it sometimes brings, it also brings it's own unique gifts.

It does not deserve to be used as an invective.

So, in remembrance of every unthinking thing I'd ever said, I decided to write a letter. Because that's what I do when I'm pissed. I try to word it as I would wish a letter to be worded to a foolish, but well-intentioned me, Pre-diagnosis.

Who knows if it will be read, but maybe it will be.

Because words matter.


Hey guys! First off, love the show, but I wanted to comment on something that I heard this morning. I'm sure you get people griping at you for things you've said on the air all the time, but bear with me.
This morning you were talking of Kanye West and his infamous Taylor Swift debacle, and in describing how outlandish his actions were, you described him as "autistic, or something." My heart sank when I heard this, not just at the words, but the tone used. I know you meant nothing detrimental (do we ever, really?), but you see, my son was in the back seat when you said this. He is approaching four years old, and he is autistic.
I immediately started thinking damage control--did he hear it? Did he understand it? What does he think when he hears things like that? As his mother, I want him to grow up with the knowledge that he is autistic, and see himself as wonderfully "different", but never "less". When the word "autistic" is used in a negative way, how can he help but hear it and think, "If 'autistic' is bad, and I am autistic, what does that make me?" As I know you are a group of people who care about - and do SO MUCH - for children of all shapes, sizes and ability levels, I thought I'd write and ask you to consider using this word more carefully.
In a world where a parent's autistic son can be denied a heart transplant simply because he is autistic (see, and major news personalities blindly attribute violent crime to autism (see, public perception is critical in helping us see the value in people with autism, and more importantly, teaching them the value of themselves. They are listening, and your words matter.
Thanks for your time!

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