Learning

As I sat down to eat breakfast I saw a story in the newspaper about a young guy with autism who is going to college. Not only is he going, he’s got a $200,000 scholarship. Once upon a time that might’ve filled me with hope, but as I sat staring at the included photo which showed him with his mom in the dorm room, all I could think was big fucking deal. True, that may be a harsh thought for what I’m sure is probably a lovely story, but I really no longer care.

I have reached a point of understanding in my life. When it comes to autism, we only read about the pretty happy stories, when the reality for thousands of families is quite different. Because those of us who don’t have children with autism (or don’t have children at all) don’t want to read about the realities of autism. The realities are something I’m only just now beginning to understand, second-hand through my best friend.

Even on the best of days, I doubt anyone truly understands autism. There’s such a huge spectrum that anyone can fit into and yes, there are those who can function on their own and live happily ever after. My best friend – who I will refer to as A and her daughter as E – is only the second person in my whole life who I have known with an autistic child. I am sad to say that I lost touch with the first friend whose son had autism. I met A a few years ago through a forum about a mutual interest of ours at the time. I knew from an early point that E has autism, but it was never that big of an issue. In April of this year, we finally got together for a few days and while I was there, I met E, somewhat face to face. She ignored me for the most part, which was fine as I didn’t expect much interaction.

Since that visit, though, things have gone downhill. And I’m not quite sure how to express what has happened as I don’t fully understand it. A believes it could be hormones since E is in her mid-teens. It could be any number of other things, but A has no clue. There’s been violence on E‘s part, which was brought under control in the short term, but long term is another story. And that’s what’s brought me so down. A is one of the dearest and best friends I have had in my entire life. She has saved me from myself and from many a situation in my life more times than I can count and I want to repay that kindness, but I can’t. I want to help, but I can’t. She can’t really help her own situation either because she lives in the state of Illinois which is run by criminals who have mishandled money, thereby eliminating any sort of healthcare or other assistance for those with little means. She doesn’t drive so whatever help there might be, even in another city, is difficult to get to.

This is the kind of shit that pisses me off about this country. We’re supposed to be the biggest and best and richest country, but we don’t do fuck-all for our own poor. We just sit around saying, “They could help themselves if they try.” Bullshit. Bull-fucking-shit. Not every poor person is lazy and/or irresponsible, though it’s easy to believe that, so there’s no guilt over not helping them. A was even trying to finish her college degree, but guess what! Those same criminals I mentioned before defunded the college program she was taking. So what is a poor person supposed to do when they are trying their best to improve their situation, to raise themselves above the poverty line, but what very little help they have is taken away? How is she – or anyone else – supposed to help herself?

I’m tired of it all. Not tired of listening to her, because that’s about the only thing I can do, but tired of the stories that we all want to hear while ignoring the stories that never get told because the parents are struggling to make sense of things and live life. From now on I’m ignoring all of the stories of individuals with autism who live happy perfect lives. Because for thousands of others, it’s nothing but a dark cloud that hangs over them wherever they go and whatever they try to do. I’m sick of it and I can only imagine how A feels.