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If the First Child Had Autism

Posted by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 7:44 PM
  • 5 Replies

by Kim Stagliano

As a Mom, one of the highlights of the inauguration was watching the first children, Miss Malia and Miss Sasha Obama, revel in their father's day. They were poised and yet still childlike. Eyes bright. Smiles wide.

Their mother, our elegant new First Lady, was able to fully share the day with her darling daughters. Did you notice the glances and grins they shared? I sure did.

And then I became sad.

As an autism Mom, I thought about how different the day would be if the First Lady had a child with autism. Here's one scenario:

The First Lady is holding her child's hand tightly as they walk toward their seats, her smile tempered by the interference from her autismometer, the scanning system she uses at all times to gauge her child's mood, temperment, ability to manage the input and to anticipate a meltdown. In her other hand she holds a metal ring on which hang dozens of plastic cards with simple pictures and words. It's an odd accessory.

The boy is wearing a pair of bulky, Bose noise canceling headphones to help him tune out the roar of the crowd. His eyes are cast down to the floorboards.

The lines laid out before him capture his attention. He stops. He sits down.

A brief look of panic crosses his mother's face. She erases it. Then gently, lovingly signs, "stand up."

He lies down.

She flips the pictures to the word "stand" and shows it to him.

He covers his eyes.

She starts to perspire despite the cold, turns to her Mom and nods. The older woman responds and reaches into the bag she is carrying. She hands the child a Thomas the Tank engine toy. He accepts it, clutching the toy, waving it in front of his face.

He stands.

His mother's shoulders drop a few inches as they make their way to their seats.

She tries to watch her husband, to admire his handsome face and take note of his momentous day. This is his day. But autism is along for the ride. As always. When the speaker (who was it again?) finishes, her son's voice rings out amid the cacophony of applause, "A clue! A clue! We need our handy dandy notebook!"

She breathes out -- shows her son another small card. "Quiet." He squirms. Her mother hands her a small surgical brush with which she strokes her son's palms.

Her husband is about to take the oath. He looks at her with his, "Are we OK?" expression. She will not add to the gravity of the job he is about to accept. She will not cloud his day. She smiles and winks.

She takes her son's hand and together they stand. Her mother wraps her arms around the boy, applying pressure to his torso.

The President takes his oath. "Elmo Loves You!" cries the boy. The crowd emits a nervous laugh. The President bends to his son, kisses his head. The new First Lady takes her child's hand and fights back tears, praying her face reveals nothing but love and pride.

The First Family waves to the throng of supporters. To the world. The boy waggles his fingers in front of his eyes. His head nods to a song only he can hear. The First Lady kisses her husband, her hands cup his face for a moment.

In that second, the boy bolts up the aisle. There is a large, wet stain on his pants as he scrabbles toward an exit. The day is simply too much for him.

His grandmother is right behind him. Leaving her daughter and son-in-law, now the First Lady and President of the United States.

The next day, the President announces an initiative to study every possible cause of autism from genes to vaccines and to spend millions on treatment.

In four years, he plans to have his son speak at the inauguration for his second term.

by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 7:44 PM
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Replies (1-5):
by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 7:47 PM

I hate to say it but I bet a candidate with a special needs child wouldn't be elected--they wouldn't be a "perfect" family, would they?  And it would make a lot of people uncomfortable---I have three special needs kids, so I have a little experience...

by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 7:48 PM

Wow-that is very detailed.  I can almost picture what would be going on.  I can imagine how I would react if it were me!


Lea Ann

by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 7:50 PM

That is so good. It made me cry. I would love that day!

by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 8:08 PM

that was really something else.  It almost made me cry, but in a good way!  I don't have a special needs child - but I work in the mental health field, and work daily with two autistic individuals.  They are like little "angels" in my mind.  They captured my heart and my mind faster than anything else, I've never been so curious about anything in my whole life.  I can't tell you how much I'd love to see someone in that kind of powerful position with a special needs child - even more, I'd love to see that person go to extra lengths to get more research done and more answers!

by on Jan. 21, 2009 at 8:22 PM

I pictured several times yesterday Michelle Obama with my son Jordan and His Autism /Seizure Alert Dog , T-Rex. My son would have been plugged into Her I Phone Like I plug him into mine to counter balance all the noise and the dog helps manage his compulisve fear of crowds and people touching him etc. I live in Virginia 20 minutes outside of Washington DC and I am SAD to say that the state that is less than 20 minutes in a car from the Obamas new front door is Pathetic when it comes to Autism Services. I hope now that the new administration is in place , there is something , anything I can do to help the plight of children in my state like my son. I plan on bending anyone and everyones ear that I can to get to pay attention to me, because sadly several weeks ago in the town next door to mine , a mother Murdered her 13 yr old Autistic Daughter and then told everyone she ran away, wandered off. They found that poor baby frozen in a creek , and I cant help but to think that if that parent had more services and help available to her that someone would have noticed that she, the mother, was going over the edge. More and more tragedies like this one WILL happen if something is not done. I should not have had to explain to my son why one of his classmates died. He still doesent understand where his friend is. RIP Alex, may your soul be at peace and may your angel wings let you soar to new heights.

My son and his service dog T-Rex.

Ironically on the DC Metro

At the beach playin in the waves.      <--Click me if you love Pit Bulls!

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