Politicians are talking about change. It is a concept that causes considerable anxiety for children with autism. The only change my kids enjoy is the kind they put in their piggy banks.
My sons occasionally discuss the presidential candidates. Henry, nearly four years old, often says, “Let’s talk about John McCain,” with the same enthusiasm reserved for McCain’s PR staffers. “McCain has a girlfriend. It’s a girl, not a wife,” he says, referring to Sarah Palin. He believes McCain and “Orock Ovama” are friends. As Henry says, “They play together and pretend they’re presidents. Then they approve messages.”
My boys have been interested in the election since that wintery January night when my husband returned from the caucus. When he explained he had helped select the next president, 6-year-old Noah became distraught.
“I don’t want you to be president, Dad!” he sobbed. “You would never be home, and you wouldn’t be able to tackle me for a whole entire year. That would be horrible!"
My husband has no political experience, although he was elected president of the Computer Club during college. We are a typical family, and we’re becoming more typical every year. (Currently one in 94 boys is diagnosed with autism.) Our foreign diplomacy experience consists of me speaking French during a trip to Paris eight years ago so we could order a chocolate croissant and find our way to the toilet.
I could wear my lilac spaghetti-strapped bridesmaid gown from a 2006 wedding to the inauguration, along with my running shoes, since I would be spending my entire time chasing the boys. I’m not sure the camera crews could follow quickly enough. My son Isaac would use his speech generating device to say, “Let’s go for a walk.” Noah, our scientist, would interrupt the oath to say, “The sun’s in my eyes, Dad. Did you know the sun is 93 million miles away?” And Henry would probably say, “Dad, let’s talk about John McCain.”
Our new administration would mandate insurance companies to cover autism therapies, such as speech, occupational therapy, applied behavior analysis, and biomedical treatments. We would demand a safer vaccination schedule, “greener” vaccines, more teacher training, and research monies to explore environmental causes of the disorder.
Our “First Family” could offer the country the opportunity to see what life is like with two children on the autism spectrum. We might finally be heard. And that’s a change even my boys could accept.