Autism Watch: 2007

Placing Blame

Posted on: January 6, 2009

Over the past few days, since a prominent actor’s son died, presumably from a seizure, I’ve seen the story everywhere. I see it on the numerous autism/seizure lists I belong to. I see it on the news, on talk shows, in emails, and on message boards, blogs, newspapers, you name it. In all of them, there’s a pervasive sense of sympathy, but overwhelmingly a sense of blame. It shouldn’t, but it shocks me.

The media frequently sensationalizes what they call ‘news.’ “The public has a right to know,” and all that. First, I’m not sure the public has a right to know, and second, if I want to know something, I want to know the truth. And this story, I’m not sure that we’ll ever know that, nor if we really need to.

I’ve seen a lot of people talk about this family as though they have an inside line, as though they’re best buddies and have real proof, when it turns out, the closest I’ve heard anyone, outside of the media, say is “I met a brother…” Big deal. Unless people were in this home, they haven’t a clue. There, I said it.

We need to remember that first and foremost, this is a family dealing with the unfathomable pain of loss of a young, beautiful child. In the end, does anything else really matter? We can’t bring him back, and we can’t change the circumstances that caused the death. We can only hug our child a little longer, and if anything, learn something from it, if there’s anything to be learned.

Instead, I see a lot of people placing blame. There, I used the word again. Sure, there are some things I blame — I blame vaccines for contributing to my son’s autism (not causing, but contributing: please notate the difference). I blame the wind for knocking over my plant out back. And I blame myself for spilling nail polish remover on a perfectly good dining room table. But these are my things to blame. They are things in my household. My children. For us to blame this family for harming their child, or not doing enough — it blows me away.

We parents of autistic children are usually the first people outraged when someone judges us for our parenting, for what we do or don’t do to our children, for trying or not trying biomedical. We are judged for not spanking a child having a tantrum or for daring to take this child in public. We are judged for expecting kids to be nice to our kids, or for letting our child wear a sherpa cap with orange gloves and a black/red cape with flame-colored pants..oh wait, that’s just me. Anyway, we don’t like to be judged. So why are we judging this family now?

And more importantly (I guess there’s a lot I feel is important in all this) — why are we feeling so superior that we can blame them for not acknowledging that their child may have had autism? WHY is this necessary? Why are we holding this family responsible for not contributing to the autism cause by announcing that he had it? (And we don’t even know for sure that he did.) Why are they responsible for sharing a private thing? Do we tell everyone we meet? Heck no, it’s no one’s business. It’s not a matter of shame that stops me, it’s a matter of the fact that I don’t find it necessary to tell everyone about my son’s health anymore than what I had for breakfast or when I had my last exam.

I could go on and on about this. The more I read, the more indignant it makes me. And there’s absolutely nothing I can do about it. But, I still can’t help but feeling these people are being put through the wringer at a time where they can least afford it.

In case I didn’t  make it clear:

1) It’s not the family’s responsibility or requirement to publicly state their child’s health issues.

2) It’s not the family’s responsibility to create enlightenment or awareness towards any health issues.

3) It’s not the family’s responsibility to answer our questions about the circumstances, or what treatments they did or didn’t do.

There. Phew. Oh, and it’s not their responsibility to defend their religious views, if scientology can be referred to as a religion. Seems to me, most people whine when you dare to mention your religion,  if they aren’t fellow believers. Can’t please people, can we? “Mention your religion, but only when it suits me. And it’s up to you to know when that is.”

I digress.

Leave the family alone. Let them bury their son in whatever peace they can find. Let’s take responsibility for our own children, and if we want public awareness, let’s not rely on celebs to do it for us. Sure, celebs get a lot more attention, but that doesn’t preclude us from trying. And if we don’t do it, are we responsible to others with autism or seizure disorder or anything else? Heck no, we’re responsible only to our family and our children. Just like “that” family.

3 Responses to "Placing Blame"

Thank you for a beautifully written statement. You have it spot on.

I completely agree. It’s a sickening spectacle.

Oh, I like this! I haven’t read any of the “sensationalism” or “judgement” blogs/articles, etc, thank goodness! This is one time I’m glad I’m not up on current events. You are absolutely right, though! Thanks for posting this!

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