Autism Is Not A Punishment From God

This is a post in the weekly Autism Hopes series by Lisa Quinones-Fontanez, a mom who blogs  over at AutismWonderland.

Look at this child. Does he look like a punishment for anything?

Five years ago when my son, Norrin, was diagnosed with autism I went through a series of emotions. Anger for not seeing the signs sooner, depression due to so much uncertainty, loneliness because I didn’t know anyone else raising an autistic child and anxiety over navigating the special education maze. And while I may have even wondered whether I was to blame for Norrin’s autism – not once did I ever consider my son or autism a punishment.

Recently GOP candidate Susanne Atanus made a statement blaming autism (along with other diseases and natural disasters like tornadoes) as God’s punishment for abortions and same- sex marriage. When I read the article, my jaw just about hit the keyboard. I’m grateful Republican leaders strongly advised Atanus to withdraw from the congressional campaign as her beliefs “have no place in the modern political debate.”

I don’t want to get into a political debate because it’s pointless. Susanne Atanus’ statements are irrelevant and incorrect. (I am being very very kind.) But Atanus’ words are dangerous, insulting and hurtful to me and the entire autism community, as well as every woman who’s had an abortion and every gay couple wanting to marry. And if Atanus feels that way about autism, how many other people feel the same? It scares me to think that such ignorance could exist, especially within someone running for office.

When I first started telling people Norrin had autism, many expressed how “sorry” they were. I know people meant well, but I don’t want anyone to feel sorry for us. As I’ve shared my story people have asked if I wanted a cure for Norrin or if autism could have been prevented. And once a coworker referred to Norrin as “sick.” Autism isn’t a disease in need of a cure and Norrin isn’t sick. In fact, he’s probably one of the healthiest kids I know. There are so many misconceptions about autism as it is. Some I can shrug off but autism as a “punishment from God” is beyond insulting.

When I look at Norrin, I am filled with an overwhelming sense of pride and unbelievable joy. I recognize the progress he has made and how hard he was worked to achieve the milestones that come so easily to other children. He is my son and I have loved him since the moment I found out I was pregnant. And on the day Norrin was diagnosed with autism, my love for him did not diminish.

Norrin has autism. Yes we have our challenges and raising a child with special needs isn’t always easy. But it’s not a punishment. My son is not a burden. I have no desire to cure him. I love Norrin just as he is. And I want others to appreciate, understand and respect him for who he is. Norrin is my greatest achievement and I am so blessed to his mother. The only punishment we are burdened with is dealing with ignorant individuals like Susanne Atanus.

Norrin is my only son. And if I had to choose between having him – just as he is – or no son at all, I would choose him. Always.


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