As you can imagine, as the mother of an autistic child I read a LOT of articles about autism. This week I came across an article about Donald Grey Triplett, the first child ever to be diagnosed with autism (full article linked below).
It’s a fascinating and inspiring story which ultimately ends on a positive note. To try to cut a long story short I shall summarise:- Triplett was born in 1933 in Mississippi, USA. As a young child he exhibited some ‘unusual’ behaviours that didn’t tally with ‘normal’ child development and was part of a research group that resulted in him being given the first ever label of autism. As was the custom in those days, his parents were advised to have him institutionalised which they did. However, they visited him regularly and after a period of time decided it wasn’t the right thing to do and they took him home again. His mother worked tirelessly to help him overcome certain difficulties and today he is an 82 year old man living a perfectly happy and fulfilling life albeit with the understanding and support of the local community in his hometown.
What I particularly want to highlight in my post here is the message from the following quote:-
“What Donald’s story suggests is that parents hearing for the first time that a child is autistic should understand that, with this particular diagnosis, the die is never cast. Each individual has unique capacity to grow and learn, as Donald did, even if he hit most of his milestones rather later than most people.” ~ John Donvan and Caren Zucker authors of the book In a Different Key:The Story of Autism
This is such an important point to highlight. A lot of people don’t realise that a child with autism has as much potential to grow and develop as any other child does, it’s just that they are likely to do so in a non standard way and within a different time frame. I’m not suggesting that autistic children all have the potential to lead what is considered a ‘regular’ life as adults (although some do), but more that they can live a full life that is just as valid as anyone else’s life experience. And that we should never place limitations on our expectations of what any child can achieve, autistic or not.