My Little Dandelion, Cont'd

Editor’s Note: This article previously appeared in a different format as part of The Atlantic’s Notes section, retired in 2021.

Two readers responding to my note on autism reflect two disparate vantage points. The first is a 66-year-old Georgia man with Asperger’s Syndrome, a retired Army officer who has struggled socially his entire life. His subject line: “On the Spectrum.”

[B]oth parents and teachers must understand that not all young people are cut out to be “the leaders of tomorrow”—that some individuals will make their greatest contribution as tinkers or inventors or mechanics or engineers or programmers.

To quote Popeye the Sailor: “I am what I am and that’s all that I am!” And I’ve done okay.

The second is from an elementary school teacher who has taught children on the spectrum. Keith Bohlender of Toronto is neurotypical:

I read “My Little Dandelion,” as well as the Wildhood and Garcia articles, with great interest …. My wife is a speech therapist whose clientele is made up of pre-school children. Many of these children have very recently received diagnoses, or are facing the very real prospect that their beloved child may imminently be diagnosed with ASD [Autism Spectrum Disorder]. My wife is in the exceedingly difficult position of being able, after many years of experience, to expertly recognize the markers that are described in these articles.  

She cannot, however, make a formal diagnosis—even when tearfully begged to do so by parents. So, she encourages the parents to seek an opinion from a medical professional.

I am sending all three of these articles to her, with the thought that she may be able to pass them on to some of the parents of her clientele. It may give them comfort and sustenance to read of how adults with ASD are able to cope, contribute and thrive.

Also worth checking out is the video seen above, on how creative expression can help kids with autism. And keep the emails coming—if you’re autistic or the parent of an autistic child and would like to share your story.