When people asked how I broke the limitations of autism, I usually share the metaphor of a child trapped in a bank vault with two steel doors. With much effort, his parents can crack the code and open the first door. However, the second door was locked from the inside – the child must crack the code from his side to open it.
Most people focus on the first door of autism via various approaches such as biomedical treatment, special diets, occupational therapy, speech training and ABA. They scarcely notice the existence of the second door, which is the focus of my autism work.
I shared my thoughts during dinner with the parents of an autistic teenager in early 2010. Although they accepted my metaphor, they started to glance away when I explained how to open the second door.
Someone who has rejected living on Planet Earth on Earth requires strong reasons why he should reverse his stance. After all, Earthlings have done many terrible things to each other, and continue to do so today. Who in the right mind would dare to venture into a cage full of hungry tigers waiting to pounce on their next victim?
I explained that for the autistic child to open the second door, he must first realise that Life on Planet Earth is good, beautiful, true, and meaningful. He can then live in service to his ideals, which will direct him to create mature emotional bonds with the people around him as a means of doing his work on Earth.
Cynical parents who keep broaching about the social horrors of naivety, the need to earn money for survival, their ability to impose punishment and other examples of earthly suffering only alienate the child further from accepting physical reality. Birth exposes oneself to mortality and pain. When their child refuses to be born (as an individual), even death holds no power over him.
However, I knew that I have lost these parents when they keep trying to change the topic to the insurer who took issue with my autism diagnosis.
I offered to explain the state of non-consciousness I experienced as a child. The father abruptly interrupted me a few sentences later, asking for an explanation of why I was in that state. I told him that I had no idea since this was simply my experience. A scowl of impatience flashed on his face. “This is unacceptable if you are talking about treatment. I need a reason.”
I realised that these parents were not interested in the nature or experience of autism at all. They want a cure. They want a vacuum cleaner that can suck everything autistic out of the brain of their children. Since I cannot offer that, they have no interest in what I am sharing even if it is the nature of reality and universal consciousness.
I have met some parents who invited me to see the blueprint for their autistic child. After following a prescribed therapy, their child will be “autism-free”. Their child is to study a prescribed set of subjects in school. Their child is to develop a prescribed set of interests. Their child is to take a certain prescribed occupation or inherit the family business. And if their child is not following the prescribed path or meeting their standards, then their child is not good enough. Shame on their child for letting the family down!
If they ever mentioned their child’s feelings, dreams, or choices, it will always be highly negative. It is as if their child is a blank canvas for them to paint their ideal masterpiece, and any resistance by the canvas is forbidden.
Nowadays, I notice this type of parents rather quickly. They dominate more than 80% of the conversation, telling me all about how to cure autism in their child. They already have all the answers – they just want to see me nod and hear my verbal agreement.
I believe that this attitude has angered many autistics and spurred them to oppose curing autism. Sometimes, I wish to rebut them: “Instead of curing your child, why don’t you cure yourself of your negative attitude?”
Parents, please listen to the resentment of autistics at being treated like a blank canvas, a nobody or a delicate bonsai plant that must be carefully manicured. Please know their anger for having their ambitions dismissed as impractical daydreams, their attempts at decision making dismissed as foolish choices and their difficult struggles dismissed as stubbornness.
Please feel their fear that the people closest to them are trying to destroy who they are and to cancel their ego before it is properly birthed into our world. Please feel their desire to live their own life and develop their own identity. Please allow them to step beyond being a clone of yourselves.
Only then can your child develop the maturity, confidence, and trust to open the second door to freedom.