Ironically, I just watched Kate Upton in the movie, The Other Woman this weekend, and the bikini she was wearing in the film certainly qualified as a "various stage of undress" and although I get and respect the whole invasion of privacy stuff, I failed to see what all the excitement was about.
Yes, my 16 year old son would have loved a quick peak at Kate's nude selfie (which makes me throw up a little bit), but, I failed to see the media fervor over such an event. I mean, a new sighting of Nessie, the Loch Ness Monster (clothed or unclothed) wouldn't have created such a social media storm. Is that because even though there have been over 3,000 sightings of the mythical creature, some folks still have a hard time believing Nessie is real since they haven't seen her with their own eyes? Or is it because a topless Kate Upton selfie is living proof to doubters that "they" are real, which is even harder to believe than a giant, 1,000 year old sea creature? Whatever you believe, this week was living proof that naked celebrity selfies beat out the Loch Ness Monster any day.
The mystery of autism and how this complex disorder impacts each and every person living with autism so differently, has lead to many beliefs and fallacies that result from "believing what you hear". Myths about autism are almost as far fetched as the belief of a 1,000 year old sea creature living in a big lake in Scotland and the belief that beautiful celebrities never take nude selfies.
I have to admit, back in my Loch Ness Monster tracking days, when my BFF's Denial and Clueless would bundle up for a cruise around Loch Ness in hopes of seeing a mythical creature we had heard so much about, I too fell for some of those autism myths. Myths like, "people with autism don't understand or feel love" (nearly killed me), "people with autism don't need friends" (another tough pill to swallow), "autism is caused by poor parenting" (ouch), and my favorite, "people with autism all have savant like skills" ("Oh, just like Rain Man"). It was hard reading, seeing, hearing, and yes, sometimes believing such things about my son, but, just like Nessie and her fan club, sometimes you can't believe sight unseen, sometimes, you truly do have to see for yourself.
It is true that many people living with autism have splinter skills, a certain skill or skills that is well above their overall functioning in other areas, but, that does not make them a savant. That does not make them bound for Las Vegas to count cards.
For example, Ryan's memory, and nonverbal skills exceed his verbal language and executive functioning. This makes Ryan typical in the atypical world of autism. Ryan also has an intuitive gift of music, his ability to hear a note, immediately name the note and replicate the note, falls in line with someone who has perfect pitch. Does having perfect pitch make Ryan a savant? I use to hope so. I use to pray so. If I'm AWEnest, I use to pray, "If Ryan has autism, then please let him have some supernatural, crazy skill. Let him be the next Bill Gates, Mozart, or Einstein. Amen.".
As I became more comfortable and accepting of The A Word, I eventually stopped looking for Nessie in every large body of water I entered and I also began believing that Ryan's memory and his musical ability did not make Ryan a savant. These unique and special abilities just made Ryan, Ryan.
One time, like all mothers, my friend and I were comparing notes on our two boys. A mother loving a child with an ASD finds the most comfort in discussing her child with another mother who "gets it". When we were talking about our AWEsome boys, I remember my girlfriend telling me how so few people actually do "get it" and how little "real" information folks have about autism. It seems, when it comes to autism, that more people believe in the myths, believe in what they hear, not what they actually see, when it comes to The A Word.
When my girlfriend would talk about her son, she would often be asked that mythical autism question, "Oh, what is he good at?". It may be rephrased in various ways, like, "What is his gift?"or "What is his special skill?". The words may be different, but, the belief, the myth, is still the same. If your child has autism then he or must have some savant type skill. And my girlfriend, who worried that her son was given this autism label, yet, didn't have some Rain Man like quality, would respond, "He's just Grant.".
"Just Grant", those two words, two words put together as a result of myth believers when one word should be enough, "Grant". The word Grant or Ryan or Hannah or Caden should never have to be uttered with the word "just" in front of such a beautiful name. "Just Grant" are two words that are filled with such meaning that, it's a wonder the words make it from my friend's heart to her lips.
"Grant" should be enough, for these Loch Ness Monster, Big Foot myth believers. In fact, "Grant" should be everything, and to my girlfriend, "Grant" is not only enough, "Grant" is all she needs. However, for those who believe the myths, believe what they hear and not what they see, Grant, who falls in the 9 out of 10 kids with autism that do not have savant like skills, for some people, it may seem like something is missing. These are the same people who spend countless hours searching for mythical creatures like Nessie, Big Foot and E.T., looking for something they heard about and desperately want to believe exists, instead of seeing what really exists right in front of them.
As a parent, it is hard to hear the words, "your child has autism". You spend days, weeks, months, and years convincing yourself that regardless of that label, your child will be okay, even though the myths of autism shroud a blanket of doubt around your heart as thick as fog over the Loch Ness Lake.
Whether it's a giant sea creature, an alien from outer space or a Kate Upton naked selfie, sometimes, seeing is believing. There are still many things we don't know about autism, many aspects about this complex neurological disorder remain as dark and mysterious as the alleged cave where Nessie lives on the bottom of Loch Ness Lake. However, there is one thing we do know, people living with autism want you to accept them, believe in them and SEE them with an open mind free of myths, legends and fallacies.
Maybe if you do that, you will actually see for yourself and start believing in what is actually real, and not succumb to the belief of a tall tale that was told around a campfire, in a movie script or in a Google search in order to strike fear and ignorance in the hearts of the storyteller's listeners. You will see with your own two eyes, what his mother has known all along, he is not "just" Grant, he is Grant, and then you too will finally believe.