A letter to my friend whose child is newly diagnosed

I have so much to say, do not know where to start. I think the first thing to say is that now you know that your child’s brain is differently wired, you can help him manoeuver through living. He is still himself, it’s just you now have a clue how to work with him.

Visit resources that are developed by Autistics themselves. They know how we tick, what tools that work for them, what does not work. Avoid any websites or resources that describe us in demeaning or less than human pathology. (Look up Autism Speaks Sucks for a better description.) He is not defective, he is only disabled because society disables people like him.

If you want to the key to his success, look at his interest and work with it. Note I did not say “fixation”. I do not pathologise interests of anyone. People see fixation; I see an opportunity for Autistics to excel. I had a few main foci (Horse Racing, Narnia, Ham Radio and Winston Churchill). I managed to use what I loved and made my career choices based on them. I had a history degree because I loved Churchill. I was a theologian because of CS Lewis. And when I was denied my theological dream because of who I was, it was the thoroughbred horses that landed me my dream jobs and by the grace of God, restored me. I am now working with the Tote network inside the Churchill Downs corporate office! I wished the ghosts of Kentucky Derby winners past would have visited me earlier as a child, in middle school, and in May 2005 and tell me that my life work will be working in the horse racing industry and I must NOT give up on life.

My bosses throughout the years helped me succeed. Most of the work were on a printed checklist. I told them I preferred explicit instructions. When I was at Winners’ Circle, the bosses noticed I was very good at handicapping races, that I could understand complex concepts, that I wanted more challenges than just guiding people to their tables. I would tell my bosses about my methods to handicapping. In return, I became a programme seller and a mutuels clerk. They saw potential. They took me seriously. I even had my own contest, complete with posters printed by Hoosier Park.

Your child will need mentors during his life. I thank God for Gilbert Lefebvre and Martin Schramm. They took me in when I was a teenager and then an adult. Find a Godly person, for (s)he will be his closest person in his life.

Your child will internalise the messages of the world. He will know he is different. He will feel the pressures of trying to Act Normal and would do anything to earn your love and the acceptance of society. I resented my Special Ed classmates for acting inappropriately and making me look defective. But I was wrong to do that. It was the retard language and slurs and how the humor of today made us look less than human.

Your job (and the job of the mentor) is for your child to REJECT the bullshit messages and for him to ACCEPT himself. Fight and teach him to stand up for his right to exist.

Your child will learn on his own timeframe. Throw away the guidelines, autism means both advanced and limited development at the same time. And screw anyone who puts your child down because he goes at his own pace.

You will experience ups and downs. It will be worth it with each step of the way. Your child is made in the image of God. Accept him as the child God have given you. May you all find peace in joy in the One who have made us fearfully wonderful!