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July 22, 2008

Autistic Children Are Not Brats

JeanIn the slightly more than five years of my son Jack's life I've called him a lot of things. I've called him a trouble-maker. I've called him adorable. I've called him loveable, joyful, and charismatic. I've also called him solitary, difficult, and autistic.

I have not, to my recollection, called him a brat.

Brat is a negative term that goes past discussing mere behavior all the way down to a child's core. And it is a hurtful term. Not as hurtful as some, but call any mother's child a brat, and that mother will be upset.

Enter radio talk show host Michael Savage. Last week he called autistic children brats on-air, saying, "In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out."

Savage, who has more than 8 million listeners a week, according to MSNBC, told his audience that these kids "don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron.'" He has also not issued an apology in a message posted on his website. The message states only that he meant to "boldly awaken" parents and children to an overdiagnosis of autism by a "cartel of doctors and drug companies."

As a mom of an autistic child (with a father who is just as strict with him as with our typical children), this kind of disinformation makes it that much harder for my autistic child to live in this world. It makes it harder for him to get the accommodations he needs. It makes it harder for him to achieve friendships. It makes it harder for him to gain respect, which he absolutely deserves.

I've never been a fan of Savage, but I am a fan of free speech. Should he be fired? Probably not. Should he be forced to put forth an apology? Not if he doesn't mean it.

Should the rest of us raise our voices to counteract the vitriol that people who don't understand put forth about our beautiful children? Should we work for more autism awareness? Should we take advantage of every opportunity to teach people what autism is—and what it isn't?

Yes. Yes. And yes.

It's as if Savage called quadriplegics lazy. It is just a blatantly false statement. Just because a disability is sometimes invisible does not mean it does not exist.

My son is autistic. My son is handsome, sweet, smart, cuddly, and sometimes misbehaved—just like any other five-year-old.

He is not a brat.

He is autistic.

And I love him exactly the way he is.

Original DC Metro Moms post.

Jean writes about the many other wonderful things that come from having an autistic child at Stimeyland.

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