Friday evening I walked up to a neighbor’s house for a cup of cheer. Laura, my neighbor, poured the drinks while her husband, John, talked of his weeklong business trip. John, a physicist, and eighty-years-young, had designed and sold a piece of his equipment to a corporation in Pennsylvania, and had driven out there to direct the testing process. Aside from John being a mathematical genius, he was also a great story teller, and so he began:
The corporation was surrounded by miles of rolling farm land. Barns, aged, yet sturdy and strong, stood erect in the shadows of the corporate skyscraper. I rolled down my window as I passed by the farms to fill my car, and my lungs, with the rich air that smelled of character, sweat, and accomplishment.
Early every morning, hours before anyone would show up at the office, the farmers and their families were rolling up their sleeves, milking the cows, gathering the eggs, feeding the horses, and tending the fields. When I’d drive back to my hotel at six, the farmers and their families were still tending to their chores. The day’s work didn’t end until it was finished. No clocks. No business lunches. No gimmicks. No one to delegate the work too. No one to pass the responsibility onto. No one to place fault in. No meetings on deciding which family member was responsible to bundle the hay or plow the fields. No recognition for their hard work. They all knew what had to be done to reap a harvest, and improve their lands, their production, and their lives.
I listened intently as John continued:
At the corporation, it took six people to decide where we should meet to discuss the testing. Forty-five minutes was spent on this discussion, followed by a 30 minute coffee break while secretaries ran around bringing in pitchers of water and platters of cookies. The next hour was spent on discussing what it will mean to the corporation to have this piece of equipment—“more grandeur,” one man shouted out; “a greater following,” stated another. This discussion brought us to 12:30, lunch time.
At 2:00 p.m. when everyone in the meeting returned from lunch, I tried to begin step one of the testing process. “The testing process will be long and tedious,” I instructed them, “but it is a process we need to exercise in order to ensure the best possible outcome for this equipment once it’s launched.” They all began mulling amongst themselves, none of them willing to take part in the process, none of them willing to do what needed to be done. They would rather just ignore me. This continued for the entire week. On Friday, when it was time for me to leave, I had calculated in five days we had actually worked and made progress for a period of only seven hours during that entire week—an equivalent to three quarters of a day’s work for the farmers outside their window. I tried to point out to them how much time was wasted, and listed all the other tasks we could’ve accomplished in the week…but it fell on deaf ears.
I left there weary and concerned. A lot of energy was wasted on making the public aware of the equipment but no energy was expended doing the work required to get it to function properly.
Laura and I were taken back by John’s story and the contrasts between the corporation and the farmers. As I walked home, I thought about my son Joey, and the steps I took to improve his outcome. I thought about which routine our day-to-day life fell into, the farmer’s or the corporation’s.
When you read this story, relate the contrasts to raising your autistic child, and ask yourself which category do you fall into—the farmer’s or the corporation’s? Are you spending more time talking about your child’s issues then working on them? Are you more focused on what causes autism, then working on improving your child’s outcome? Today, with the access to instant information, global news, and endless reactionary comment, it’s easy to expend our energies on researching the why’s of autism or focus on spreading awareness. The reality is each of us only has so much energy to expend on a daily basis and there are no quick answers or instant cures. It is important as a parent to do everything you can to create the best situation possible for your child, but that can only go so far, one day your autistic child is going to be an autistic adult.
We have no one determining factor that causes autism, but we do have ample information, proof, and sound success stories on what alleviates autism. You need to truly believe that by working with your child, and providing services and interventions, day-in and day-out, a seed will bloom. Trust in your daily efforts, and your child will begin to believe in her or himself… and from there, all is possible.