In this chapter, Christopher explains his life plans and how’s he’ll achieve them. He has to take his exams, and do well enough to be able to go to university.
“Then, when I’ve got a degree in Maths, or Physics, or Maths and Physics, I will be able to get a job and earn lots of money and I will be able to pay someone who can look after me and cook my meals and wash my clothes, or I will get a lady to marry me and be my wife and she can look after me so I can have company and not be on my own.”
This quote can be interpreted to mean he wants a relationship – he says he wants a wife. But when he describes why he wants a wife, it gives us a greater insight into his mind. He wants someone to care for him: cook, clean, etc. AND he wants the company, so he is not on his own.
As an SLP, I often struggle to engage my students with Autism. Language is a social construct, and frequently my students with Autism do not socially engage with language. Because of that, I may fall into thinking that they do not desire social interaction. The insight revealed in this quote – and really, throughout the book – is that people with Autism DO desire social interaction, but in a way that is different than neurotypicals do.
I have a 5th grade student with Autism, he’s been on my caseload since he was in Pre-K. He is FREQUENTLY difficult to engage using language – even with his dynamic device. However, every time I see him, he initiates a hug. And when we walk down the hall together, he may not answer questions, comment, or even look in my direction during our stroll, but he will invariably reach out to hold my hand.
The topic of this chapter centers on how Christopher’s behavioral difficulties when he was younger and how they impacted his parent’s relationship. This is a tough chapter. Parenting and marriage is difficult, and I imagine it would be even tougher when you are learning how to parent a child with a disability. Have any of you heard the statistic thrown around regarding the divorce rate for couples that have a child with a disability? I heard somewhere that the rate was significantly higher. It’s irresponsible of me, but I don’t know WHERE I heard that statistic, and yet, I still shared it numerous times. I assumed that this statistic was a fact, because having a child with a disability DOES cause more stress in general and I assumed it would affect a couple’s marriage negatively. You know what happens when you asssume? I thought I’d be more responsible during the writing of this blog post, and I looked up the statistic. I assumed wrong. For married couples with a child with a developmental disability ( which included CP, Down Syndrome, Intellectual Disability and Unknowd), there is not a statistically significant difference in the divorce rate.
As a clinician, this chapter reminds me to support my students and their families with an empathetic ear.