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Happy Thanksgiving: All I Can Handle in this Age of Autism

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As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them. -- John Fitzgerald Kennedy

Ten days ago, I attended the National Autism Association's (NAA) annual conference in Florida and was thrilled to be able to spend a little time with so many autism parents, advocates and other authors. I have been trying to find the time to sit down and write proper reviews for two important and recently published books. However, I have been more time-challenged than usual as I am 'negotiating' with the powers that be here in San Diego for the supports needed as my 21-year-old son with autism transitions into adult services. (Parents of younger children, if you feel you have it tough right now dealing with the school district or systems in place: you haven't a clue. It only gets worse unless you own two homes -- one for you, and one for your child when he turns 18. Helpful coping strategies for parents of teens may include the three V's: Vodka, Valium and Vacation, but I digress).

Age of Autism: Mercury, Medicine and a Man-Made Epidemic by Dan Olmsted and Mark Blaxill is a critical book for all humans to read -- not just those interested in autism. Most would agree that environmental health is a concern to all of us and impacts everyone's daily life. You'd have to have your head stuck in the sand (hopefully not on the Texas Gulf Coast) to believe otherwise. This book explains how, as Robert K. Kennedy Jr. puts it, "medical and manufacturing interests have mounted an assault on human health."

All I Can Handle -- I'm No Mother Teresa: A Life Raising Three Daughters With Autism by Kim Stagliano is also a relevant read. Stagliano's personal account of raising children on the spectrum will make you alternately laugh and weep, and more importantly gives the reader an insight as to how profoundly autism changes families. All community members should read this book -- because Kim's daughters have the same needs that many of our children do in the autism community, and this is another environmental and monetary impact you won't be able to escape. Gianna, Bella, Mia are here, and they are not going away, Neither are the Jeremys, the Ians, the Sams, and the Blazes.

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The autism community is often divided on what it believes autism is or is not, what does or does not cause autism, whether autism is a form of neurodiversity or not, and so on. As for me, I believe that autism is best described with the Parable of the Blind Men and the Elephant. Six blind men feel a different part of the elephant, and thus each have their own opinion about what the elephant is, based on their examination and interpretation of the part of the elephant they are exploring. The autism community has it's differing opinions, because all of our perceptions and experiences are a part of the mystery that is autism: we share a similar label but our personal stories, perceptions, beliefs, and truths are different. And this needs to be respected. However, I believe that there cannot be any arguments to the fact that we are polluting our environment, our health, our elderly relatives' health, and our children's health in many different ways, and the world has got to start paying attention to this very real fact.

As Thanksgiving looms, I am grateful for all the people I have met on this autism journey -- regardless of which part of the elephant they are feeling and interpreting. We each have our own truths. Our beliefs may be different, but our goals are the same: a happy, healthy, love-filled and productive life -- as independent and self-determined as possible.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may your blessings be many.