When people talk about autism I always imagine a small child, "locked in his own world." Sometimes there's a story of a teenager -- The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time. Sometimes, there's Temple Grandin. A friend has a colleague researching autism and the frequency of the diagnosis, she's told me he's said, "I bet I would've been diagnosed as autistic as a child." And then he, a highly successful man, widely respected, a parent and husband, laughs.
Anne Bauer has written a painful and moving essay about what else can happen to autistic children who grow up to find themselves miserable in their bodies, unable to negotiate the world, helpless and almost uncontrollably violent because of their impulses. Here's how Bauer describes inauguration day after her son had been hospitalized for attacking a young woman at his group home:
"I spent Tuesday at a friend's house, as planned, in front of the TV, watching the Obamas walk and wave. Once, when someone asked why I was so quiet, I mentioned that one of my children was in the hospital, quite ill. She touched me and said something kind. I knew she was thinking of something like leukemia and I wanted to tell her I would hack off my right arm in return for something as simple as cancer. The flickering beauty of a sad, pure, too-early death sounds lovely. Instead I nodded, silent and dumb."
I keep trying to come up with something else to say, but I can't.