When an autistic son of a journalist met the president
Imagine that you had an autistic son who was just about to meet the US president. Would you feel excited, nervous, or perhaps worried about potential embarrassment? That somehow a sudden outburst might reflect badly on you? These were just some of the emotions recounted by National Journal political columnist Rob Fournier in a moving talk with David Axelrod, and which are the subject of his new book, Love That Boy:
"Tyler and I inch toward the Green Room, in line with blow-dried TV anchors and stuffy columnists. He’s practicing his handshake and hello: 'It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President. It’s a pleasure to meet you, Mr. President.' When the couple in front of us steps forward for their picture, my teenager with sky-blue eyes and a soft heart looks up at me and says, 'I hope I don’t let you down, Dad.' What kind of father raises a son to worry about embarrassing his dad? I want to tell Tyler not to worry, that he’d never let me down. That there’s nothing wrong with being different. That I actually am proud of what makes him special. But we are next in line to meet the president of the United States in a room filled with fellow strivers, and all I can think about is the real possibility that Tyler might embarrass himself. Or, God forbid, me."
I think parents of autistic children will appreciate Fournier's honesty about how he felt at that moment and how he eventually came to realise that it doesn't matter what other people think. That learning to celebrate the idiosyncrasies of a highly intelligent young man ought to be his focus. Easier said than done for sure, but a worthwhile goal nonetheless.