On to College!

Originally published in the “Autism Research Institute Adults with ASD eBulletin.”

My son, DJ, leaves for Ohio in a few weeks. He was admitted to Oberlin College, a highly selective institution, last spring and decided to take a gap year to work on a film he has been making with Rob Rooy about his inclusion experience and to practice greater independence. He aspires to be the first nonspeaking person with autism to go away to a residential college and live … Read More

The Silver Trumpet of Freedom

“The silver trumpet of freedom had roused my soul to eternal wakefulness.”

So Frederick Douglass describes the impact of learning to read in his autobiography. “It had given me a view of my wretched condition, without the remedy,” he writes. “It opened my eyes to the horrible pit, but to no ladder upon which to get out. In moments of agony, I envied my fellow-slaves for their stupidity.”

My son, DJ, recently used this passage as an epigraph for his … Read More

A Question for All: Do You Doubt My Puberty?

As a freshman in high school, I had a bit part in a community-theater production of Arthur Miller’s “The Crucible.” With John Proctor raging against the trial that would convict him of witchcraft, Judge Danforth was supposed to exclaim, “Do you doubt my probity?” But instead, the roly-poly adolescent playing him yelled, “Do you doubt my puberty?” which elicited tremendous guffaws from the audience. The kid’s puberty was indeed in doubt. Baby fat and a squeaky voice made it almost … Read More

Easy Breathing Autism

“Reasonable people promote very easy breathing,” my adopted son, DJ, once typed. For this non-speaking boy with autism, abandoned at the age of three and literally tortured in foster care, anxiety remains his biggest challenge.

“Your breathing would make me nervous,” he wrote to his teachers at the special school he attended before we adopted him. “Why weren’t you teaching me to talk, to read, and to write?” he remonstrated them. “I very much value teachers who give nice instructions … Read More

You’re Adopting Who?

A couple's decision to take in an autistic child draws callous reactions.

“Why would anyone adopt a badly abused, autistic 6-year-old from foster care?”

So my wife and I were asked at the outset of our adoption-as-a-first-resort adventure. It was a reasonable question in this age of narrow self-concern — far more reasonable, or at least more reasonably put, than many of the other questions we fielded.

For example, “Why don’t you have your own children?” a wealthy relative inquired, as if natural family-making were a kind of gated community it was … Read More