I have had people with Asperger’s syndrome and autism spectrum disorder in my life for more than 20 years.
They have been my friends and students. The one thing that each of those individuals has in common is a mother who cares for them and inspires me. I am in awe of autism moms.
I have witnessed the enormous amount of courage, love and perseverance required to parent somebody with Asperger’s syndrome or autism. I also know that ASD has nothing to do with violence.
Like everyone else in the country, I am still horrified and deeply saddened by the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., that killed 20 children and six educators.
But the pain only gets worse when I hear that gunman Adam Lanza’s former barber wishes he had killed Adam when he had the chance. This makes me afraid for every noncommunicative ASD teen out there, including a couple in particular whom I love very dearly. Lanza reportedly had Asperger’s syndrome.
The Center for Disease Control and Prevention says that one out of every 88 children born these days has ASD. Who is going to care for these individuals in the future and make sure they are safe?
We, as a society, need to start planning win-win situations for everyone. Right now!
In my ideal world, there would be a comprehensive chain of government-funded multi-level care facilities for people with ASD. They would be loving, safe places where ASD adults would have the option of living and perhaps working.
An independent-living wing would have apartments where highly functioning adults would have their own dwellings. But they would be able to choose from concierge services like grocery shopping, driving and laundry.
The more care needed, the more would be provided. Another wing of the facility would be for adults who were severely autistic, and perhaps nonverbal. They would receive competent and safe care, too.
All of this would be free or low-cost.
Right now there are mothers of children with ASD all across the country worrying about the futures of their sons and daughters.
What happens when mom and dad die first? What happens when money runs out?
I wish with all of my heart that those parents had better answers immediately for what the future might look like.
These children are our children. Go ahead and raise my taxes to pay for them. I want to care for people with autism spectrum disorder and I want their families to have peace of mind.
Jennifer Bardsley is an Edmonds mom of two and blogs at teachingmybabytoread.blog.com.