“Tolerance of intolerance is cowardice.” ~ Ayaan Hirsi Ali
To all those who seek to silence my uncensored voice, please understand this. There are many acts for which I have apologized in my life and sought forgiveness, but writing my uncensored story is not among them. My story is mine and it’s already written, the ink is dry, it is not a blank canvas upon which others can superimpose their own experiences. From my detractors, virtually all of whom have not read my book, I’m being called a “monstrous cunt,” “bitch,” “racist,” “abuser,” “torturer,” “sadist” and “ableist.” I’m familiar enough with all monikers except the last, which is the newest incarnation of shaming those of us who openly address the very real physical, behavioral or cognitive challenges that those with disabilities face daily. I don’t seek to “fix” my son or anyone like him. But if wanting to improve the lives of those with Autism, openly identifying the limitations imposed by Autism, and seeking to ameliorate the sometimes debilitating symptoms of Autism brands me as an “ableist” then so be it.
Many people with Autism are writing me talking about their own childhood experiences of abuse – being choked, throttled, etc…and it is heartbreaking to hear. I am vehemently against abuse and I’m sorry for any abuse you suffered, but that is not what occurred with Zack. I am not an abuser, never was, never will be. You continuing to call me one does not make it so. My story is mine, not an open forum on which others can project their own experiences and claim I did to my son what was done to them, or that Zack is suffering PTSD when he is in fact a healthy, well-adjusted young man. You who are enraged by my words are free to tell your stories, but not to comingle your own history with mine. Or Zack’s.
I repeat, my story is mine alone. My feelings are mine. My decision to expose them publicly is mine, and I don’t recant. My son struggled with exaggerated fears of unknown indoor spaces that were constricting his life and keep him confined to the house. My intent was to liberate him from his unfounded fears, hold him rooted to the spot, until he understood he had nothing to fear. Because I knew Zack was stronger than his fears, and he proved it.
And by the way, I have also had to restrain my neurotypical daughter for her flu shot when she resisted out of intense fear. It is not uncommon for parents to occasionally need to use physical holds of their children in specialized instances when the situation demands it for their safety. Did I override Zack’s clear protest and communication that he wanted to leave? Yes. Looking back now would I do it again for Zack? Yes. Did it work based upon my individualized assessment of what my own son could handle? Yes. Am I endorsing what I did for other parents or professionals to try with anyone else? No. My methods were specifically crafted for my son – based on his exact strength and movements, my studied knowledge of his phobia, my ability to whisper to his exact fears, my own strength and abilities. That is why I make very clear at the outset of my book that I do not endorse my methods for others to follow, this is not a prescription and I am not a clinician or doctor. I am simply a mother who found a way out of the darkness and my story is about discoveries made along the way…as stated in the Prologue. First and foremost my unguarded voice speaks to other parents in pain. It also speaks to grandparents, siblings, caretakers, doctors, diagnosticians, therapists, special needs professionals and the general public about the genuine experience of Autism from one mother’s perspective. I seek not to offend anyone, but to liberate others in pain from feelings of grief, resentment, disappointment, shame, sense of failure — the full range of natural human emotions that often accompany the experience of Autism. If my voice speaks to your thoughts, that was my goal in making you feel less alone. If my voice enrages you, don’t listen.
I have endured plenty of scorn with Zack by my side and I never have nor will apologize for who he is, or for who I am. Zack’s life was and is too precious to me to surrender to uninformed fear, public ridicule, or the public shaming of me by bystanders at various venues we encountered. My love for him is stronger than any fear about the outrage my retelling of my story is provoking now. Like everyone, I have my own stories, my own right to be heard, my own messages to send out to the world based on what I’ve learned in my life. I do not speak for you, nor could I. I do not speak for Zack, nor would I. I speak only for me and I will not be shamed into silence because others find my voice offensive, just as I don’t seek to silence theirs.