This morning I woke Coco up (post 2 cups of coffee) and she said. "Mom," then there was a long pause. She put her arms around me, then put her forehead on mine, looked into my eyes, a moment that parents live for. And then said "your breath tastes like the humane society smells".
About a week ago a fellow parent at my children's school asked me if I was going to have my daughter "fixed".
Me, a 39-year-old, divorced mother of 2 diamonds, 7 and 9 years old. My 7-year-old has autism and a mild form of down syndrome called pyramid downs. My 9-year-old is not special needs, what you would call "typical." Over the years I’ve encountered special needs intolerance. It just comes with the job. Like when a parent says, "If I knew my baby had autism or down syndrome in the womb, I would get an abortion." You wait for the pause and then the parent looks up at you and says, "Oh, sorry, of course you are different, Coco is so wonderful."
Or when a stranger sees Coco upset or flapping her arms he/she will say, "You should really get a hold of your child," to which I respond with my favorite line, "She has autism, what’s your excuse?" "Oh, sorry" always follows.
So back to the school incident...
The parent says "Are you going to have her fixed?"
"What?" I said.
"Fixed? You know, you don't want any more kids with autism out there."
"Well, you don't want autistic grandkids, do you?"
This is where I walk away.
Coco is out there in the grass running in circles, as she does, happy as can be.
She is always minding her own business, and this women walks up with her ignorance, intolerance, discrimination… bigotry, if you get right down to it.
I mean, can we just neuter or spay our kids? Can we just "fix" people when we feel like it?
I have a friend, Joe. His family is mixed, Jewish-African. In the 40's in Baton Rouge, where they lived, his aunt went in for a routine pap and small bladder infection; they gave her a hysterectomy. So she couldn’t breed.
I could have screamed the list of people who might have been wiped out by such intolerance, people “on the spectrum” -- from Bill Gates to Albert Einstein, Beethoven to the most obvious, Andy Warhol. And my recent favorite, Rivers Cuomo of Weezer (god knows the kids can’t live without Weezer!).
I could spend many hours trumpeting how Coco has changed my life, how amazing she is, but I will spare you my gushing and just say this, I have decided to take the bad feeling the parent at the school left me with and turn it into something good...
If you know anyone who is or has a child with spacial needs you may know about "scripting". This is when autistic people repeat back the lines of films, TV or books they like. Sometimes when inappropriate, or out of the blue. Coco did this for a while, and now says her own special things -- combinations of information and questions. We call them Coco-isms. We’ve always said we should write them down. And now we will.
I will not be angry at mom X in her Hummer outside the school; I will instead do something fun, something good, and albeit a small blog, something that may actually make you laugh or cry, or think. Think about what it would be like, this perfect world mom X proposed, without people like us in it.
Lydiaemily (Coco and Dorothy, of course)