My mind has been racing this past weekend since I heard about the terrible tragedy in Connecticut. As a parent of three elementary aged children I was horrified and sicked by almost every tiny bit of information that was released since then. I haven't been able to sleep and there is still so much disbelief and shock that it just seems unreal. I home school my oldest and since the news broke I have been in a constant internal struggle with myself questioning if I should keep my 2 others home from now on to. Is that the only way I can protect them from a world so scary?
Then the reports of the shooter having Asperger's shifted my thinking a little. I am sure the the shooters family is suffering just as terribly as the victims families, if not more. Hopefully it has a lot of people thinking differently. I posted 4+ years ago about my thoughts then on Violence and Autism but today I feel a strong need to update my feelings. I still stand by my original thoughts that My son needs me to advocate for him, to be stronger for him. But I've also come to understand him a lot better since then. I'm the one that's changed, and in turn it has changed him.
I think this is going to be devastating for the Amazing Autism Community. Personally, I've already heard comments about how they need to be drugged and locked up at all costs and it has me both hurt and offended and protective. Instead of people trying to understand what is going on and reach out, people are scared and pulling away from something that they just aren't familiar with. My Ethan has already had people push him away because of his diagnosis. He's had parents pull their kids from him and teachers give up on him and this was before Friday! Personally, I am trying to fill that void. I just don't know if only 1 or 2 loving people can.
Ethan lives in a world that he doesn't understand and that doesn't understand him.... on a daily basis he feels this and in turn he is soo much more sensitive to everyone around him. He can't express his emotions very well and he still doesn't even understand why people have feelings other then what he is feeling at that exact moment. That being said, he has an amazing pulse on people. A few years ago my SIL said it best,that "there are some people who soak up others emotions for them like a sponge and then, for better or worse, don't know how to let go of it themselves." Ethan is one of those people. He is a terrible communicator yet he can sense (and then magnify) your happiness or excitement or anticipation (which is why he's the best to be around at Christmas time!). Unfortunately it isn't always rainbows and butterflies, it also applies to more negative and harder to understand emotions like tension, frustration, betrayal, deceit, jealousy, and anger and disappointment. He doesn't even comprehend them himself yet internalizes those emotions and turns them on himself before you have even had a chance to identify them in yourself or those around you. Ethan literally feels your frustration or pain. Often I have put on a happy face for the kids during a trial and Ethan is NEVER fooled by it. He becomes agitated or restless and figgets. It's not just with me either, it's with anyone around him. If his little brother or sister is frustrated and losing his temper Ethan is often in the other room crying hysterically because he can't handle the upset. If the Baby is excited and giggling Ethan is bouncing off the walls and can't contain his joy and happiness. This is why homeschooling him has been soo wonderful. I've been able to fully control who is in his life and who is influencing him. I can see what triggers him and divert it. We started doing homework in the kitchen but that was too close to Daddy who was downstairs in his home office... stressed. By moving upstairs and being two flights away Ethan was better able to concentrate and be motivated and feel more empowered, because he wasn't sensing anyone elses stress. Frankly it isn't that he's full of empathy, it is that he is absorbing others energy. So his violent outbursts tend to be a microcosm of what people in the room are feeling. This translates in every area of his life. If I want him to or need him to learn something I don't so much have to tell him he can do it, I need to actually believe it, fully 100%. When he's around other kids, the same thing happens, if they are are healthy, well adjusted and kind, he picks up on that without talking (and yes, he often comes across as rude to them because of it). If others are feeling threaten and competitive or even testing the waters of life (as many 9 year old boys do) he picks up on that and doesn't understand it the same way as a typical boy does, so he becomes tense and confused and starts to feel like he's being backed into a corner- even if he's not the child being picked on or pushing boundaries. It's both fascinating and terrifying and only points to to me how important it is to surround him with positive influences in his life. No negative news shows, scary movies or shoot'em-up video games, because these things affect him differently then they do my other children.
What I'm getting at is that these kids that are absorbing the world around them need to live in a world that is full of people who are up to the task of positivity and strength and growth. I have changed over the course of the last 4 years and come to understand this about him and most kids like him. But...One mother alone trying to protect her child isn't enough, it takes an entire community of acceptance.
I'm so worried that now foster parents will be less likely to take him Autistic foster children, or more teachers writing off kids and creating situations for outburst so that they get sent to a more severe classroom, it's already hard for Autistic/Aspergers children to have friends, I'm worried parents will teach their children fear and won't allow their kids to play with kids on the spectrum. The more isolated and away from the world and community these children feel the more extreme their emotions become.
I guess I'm just hurting right now and need someone, anyone out there, to understand instead of pass judgement. Frankly, As a country we need to open our minds and our hearts a little more, help others more and build support systems for everyone going through trials to understand that they are not alone. It'll strengthen us all.
We gain strength, and courage, and confidence by each experience in which we really stop and look fear in the face... we must do that which we think we cannot.
Nothing in life is to be feared, it is only to be understood. Now is the time to understand more, so that we may fear less.
*as I have said before, comments will not be censored in an effort to open the discusion and learn from eachother in a meaningful way.