Voices of Autism: My Story
Every day throughout April–Autism Awareness Month–we will be featuring a different reader-submitted story about living with autism. While all the stories thus far have been written by parents of children who have autism, today’s story is by Marc Rosen, a 22-year-old who has autism and writes about growing up with the disorder. He is the co-editor of Perspectives: Poetry Concerning Autism and Other Disabilities.
I’m not the parent of an autistic child, nor even a parent. I’m a single 22-year-old autistic gay man, and thus unlikely to ever father a child either. However, because I’ve been where your readers’ and contributors’ kids were, they may benefit from what I have to say. It is a tale of pain, but many endure far worse on a daily basis just by being in an institution or group home.
Unlike many of the kids you’ll hear about in this series, I wasn’t loved and supported from the get-go. The kindest words that parents in the community, including my own mother had for me when I was five were “freak,” “monster,” and “abomination,” though my school’s faculty tried to shield me from this. My first suicide attempt was at age 9, motivated by a belief that not only did I not have the right to exist, but that I had an obligation to “correct the mistake” that was made by my birth and continuing to live. These attempts continued for another five years, my life spared from a combination of clumsiness and my desire to not get caught by someone who might try to “save” me. Nobody even realized I had been suicidal or depressed until I was fourteen and had a nervous breakdown in the men’s room at school.
The subsequent intervention forced me to consider the future I previously never wanted. I was being over-medicated and over-controlled in every way, and was forced to teach myself various aspects of law, education theory, and psychology that led me to being mistaken for a teacher candidate in college, just so I could protect my education from sabotage. Even then, I had to deal with constant threats of talks of forcing me into an adult guardianship, and gleeful rants about shoving me into a group home from my mother despite the fact that I was well aware of the dangers of such facilities, where government oversight is non-existent and abuse runs rampant. By the time I was done with my first year of college, I had moved out of my mother’s house permanently, and moved in with my father to protect myself from her wrath. To this day, I haven’t forgiven her for what she’s done.
After moving out, my life dramatically improved. I actually managed to have friends, became involved in my region’s poetry community, coedited an anthology of poetry about autism and other disabilities–which got submissions from four continents–and have garnered a formidable reputation in the fields of autism and disability advocacy because of the book, my work at conferences, and my political endeavors.
For me, being autistic has always been part of who and what I am, like being gay or ambidextrous. It was never an excuse, or a reason why I couldn’t do something. If you can gain anything from my story, I hope it is that your kids can and should find a way to empower themselves, and it’s your job to guide them there. Your success will be measured not in all the things you do for them, but in all the things they do without you. Regardless of their cognitive impairments, social skills, executive dysfunctions, toilet training issues, or other trifling details, if you can get them motivated and self-empowered, that is the real key to making sure they realize their potential.Add a Comment