This week, a story in the news made me cry. It was not the kind of story that makes it big in the mainstream media. It was not about mass devastation or loss of life, war or missing jetliners. It was, however, a story that has a big impact in my little corner of the world: the autism community.
What happened was that a pair of teens persuaded a 15-year-old boy with autism to participate in the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge. They sold him on how generous it would be, how cool it would be, how fun it would be. As he stood there trustingly, expecting to be drenched in freezing cold water, the teens poured a bucket filled with human feces and urine all over him.
It is impossible for me to contemplate this story of utter cruelty without thinking of my own child with autism. I cannot avoid picturing him standing somewhere, thinking he’s about to do something that will make it a little easier for him to fit in with the mystifying world around him, and instead being subjected to such terrible degradation and humiliation.
It is a mental picture that has been torturing me since the incident happened. I weep for my son, who at some point in his life could easily fall victim to someone who wants to hurt him simply because he is different. I weep for the boy this happened to, this boy who someone thought was so worthless that he deserved to have human waste dumped on him. I weep for his parents, who look at their son and see perfection, whose hearts are breaking for him.
I weep for a world in which people can do such terrible things for no reason other than to be cruel.
I do my best to keep my son safe, and to instill feelings of love and self-worth in him. I try to surround him with trusted people who care about him and want him to be happy and successful. I do my small part to raise awareness and acceptance of autism. But I fear that at some point in my son’s life, this may not be enough. I cannot follow him around everywhere he goes, and I cannot take away the extra layer of vulnerability that comes with his autism. All I can do is send him out into the world, to places that I think are safe, with people who I believe will take care of him, and hope for the best.
And I can hope that if my son is ever targeted by people who have an agenda of degradation and humiliation, I will be able to take away some of his pain by wrapping my arms around him and surrounding him with love.
How do you help prepare your child(ren) for the future? Do you feel like you are hoping for the best, but fearing heartache?
Photo credit to the author.