‘Judge not lest ye also be judged’.
That’s from the Bible. I think. I’m an atheist, so what do I know of the Bible? But it’s a quote that is often used to explain to people why judging others is wrong, and therefore, they shouldn’t do it. The saying means that if you form opinions about other people, then they will also form opinions about you, ones that you may not like.
But here’s the thing. Other people are always going to have opinions of you, and of me, and a lot of the time, they’re not going to be favorable. People literally judge you all day long. And you know what? I do too. I am totally judging you. And I’m totally okay with it.
I have opinions. I have morals. Like many autistics, I have a very, very strong sense of Right and Wrong. I try to live a moral life, even though some theists say that I cannot. I rarely lie, I recycle, I give money to charity, I don’t eat meat, and I don’t abuse animals or small children. I also try, quite hard, to put myself in another person’s shoes, to forgive them when they have done me wrong, to try again and make peace.
But the problem that I run into, time and time again, is that no matter how hard I’m trying to live a just life, other people just do not seem to be trying that hard at all. The other day, I read a story here: (http://www.lovethatmax.com/2015/04/why-i-placed-my-disabled-child-in-group.html) about this woman, Dana, who put her ten year old son with severe disabilities into a group home because she couldn’t manage the home care staff. Was her son unhappy? No. Was he neglected? No. Did she think that he would live a richer, happier, better life? Maybe, but really, she just found living with him to be a massive inconvenience. His disability prevented her from living the life that she wanted.
This woman, and her defenders, will say that no one will get it. They will say that unless we have been in her shoes, we have no right to judge, because her life was so hard, and her son is so much happier now.
Of that, I have no doubt. Anyone would be happier living elsewhere when his family hated and resented him.
And yes – I know that hate is a very strong word, but I do think it applies here. Dana says that she loves her son, and I have no doubt that she thinks that this is true. However, it is clear that she hates his disability and hates what his disability has done to her and her family’s life. Since you cannot separate the person from the disability without killing the person, by hating the disability, she hates her son.
But here’s the thing. I’ve had the absolute fortune to know several kids who are pretty darn similar to that woman’s son – nonverbal, non-ambulatory, totally dependent on others for all aspects of care. All of the parents I knew managed to competently manage staff – sure, there are a few bad apples, a few people who won’t do a good job, but if you are willing to take the time to vet people and to ask around, it is perfectly possible to find competent nurses and personal care aides. (I should know. I was one.) Her problem was not that managing staff was difficult, it was that she did not care enough to develop the competence needed to manage staff.
“ I know of a family who can’t bring themselves to place their autistic 22-year-old son in a group home. He lives in a big house with his parents, attending a day program and languishing alone in the backyard, swinging on a swing or ripping up leaves. I heard his mother adds vodka to her morning orange juice and doesn’t stop drinking till bedtime. ”
WHAT. THE EVER. LOVING. COOKIE.
I mean – honestly – how horrible is that? How horrible is it to assume that this young man’s life is a tragedy, and that he drives his parents to drink? What an utter load of codswallop, to assume he is languishing when he is in his backyard playing. Maybe he’s just – oh my gosh – playing! Playing like any other autistic guy, in his own way. I happen to love the swings. I could swing for hours by myself. I’m in my thirties. I live at home. The only thing my mother drinks in the morning is coffee. If his mother is an alcoholic, that has nothing to do with his autism. Stop blaming the damn autism and start blaming the alcoholism. Is it really so hard to believe that his parents keep him home because they like him, they like being around him, and he likes being there?
You – you who are about to leap to Dana’s defense – YOU – I’m judging you. Right here, right now. I am saying with utter certainty that you are wrong. Dana says that her son is either ‘unwilling or unable’ to drink.
How dare she assume that he is unwilling? How dare she attribute any of his behaviors to defiance, she who spends a paltry two weeks a year with him? It is so incredibly obvious to me, who has never even met this kid, that something is happening either physically or psychologically which makes it too hard for him to drink. Nobody chooses to become dehydrated and to have to be in the hospital and stuck with an IV line. First rule of everything: all behavior is communication. She says that they gave up on finding out why after he ended up in the ICU multiple times. Yet she still thinks it may be because he simply doesn’t want to?
He was ten years old when he left home. TEN. If you do not believe that you were giving him the fullest life possible, why in the world was your solution to send him away? Children belong in their families. It is really not that difficult a concept. If the son was five or six years older, I would say that moving to a group home is a natural progression, that as he entered adulthood he left the nest as most people do. No parent is perfect. Every parent wishes that they could do more, provide more, spend more, be more for their kids. Because Dana’s son has a disability, she was able to fulfill this wish of hers and provide more, but is that really parenting? Were her son not disabled, she would be forced to accept her situation, keep trying the best she could, reach out into the community, figure out new ways to be happy. Yes, I judge you, Dana – I think you gave up too soon.
As a person with a developmental disability, I believe that it is not just my right but my duty to speak up for people who have not yet learned to speak up for themselves. And I’ll tell you – damn, I get tired of it. I get tired of it when I read stories like Dana’s, who despite not knowing me now nor knowing me as a child will assume that I cannot relate to her son.
Here’s the thing, Dana. Your son is a member of my tribe. MINE. Not yours. You lost that claim when you sent a ten year old out into the world by himself. My tribe is the disabled, and we fought for two hundred years to get out of institutions and for the right to live at home. A right that you deny your son.
For which I am grateful – I really wouldn’t want him exposed to your ableist attitudes. They must be detrimental enough to your two ‘normal’ children. (sarcasm.)