Dear Michael Savage: Come live my life!

About two weeks ago radio talk show host Michael Savage made some insensitive, ignorant remarks regarding autism. Honestly, I had enough going on in my life at the time and decided to ignore it. I've got enough stress, I don't need to add more, knowing that the rest of the autistic community is going to voice their outrage.

However, a few nights ago I couldn't sleep. I was up at 2am watching stupid television...Entertainment Tonight or The Insider or whatever - it was one of those stupid tabloid shows. Whichever show it was aired a clip on Savage's remarks which I quote:

Now, the illness du jour is autism. You know what autism is? I'll tell you what autism is. In 99 percent of the cases, it's a brat who hasn't been told to cut the act out. That's what autism is.... What do you mean they scream and they're silent? They don't have a father around to tell them, 'Don't act like a moron. You'll get nowhere in life. Stop acting like a putz. Straighten up. Act like a man. Don't sit there crying and screaming, idiot.' Autism—everybody has an illness. If I behaved like a fool, my father called me a fool. And he said to me, 'Don't behave like a fool.' The worst thing he said—'Don't behave like a fool. Don't be anybody's dummy. Don't sound like an idiot. Don't act like a girl. Don't cry.' That's what I was raised with. That's what you should raise your children with. Stop with the sensitivity training. You're turning your son into a girl, and you're turning your nation into a nation of losers and beaten men.

I have to say, Michael Savage, come live my life.

I am not going to talk about all the research that goes into autism (which is not nearly enough for the epidemic that it has become - 1 in 150 children), I am not going to talk about the YEARS it took to get A diagnosed (he was 5 before anyone aside from his pediatrician took us seriously), I am not going to SCREAM about the services we started receiving when A was 9 months old to "reverse" what autism has caused (intense weekly therapy to make him talk and look you in the eye and increase his motor skills)...I won't share that because NONE of that describes what we live with every day. None of that talks about what we, parents of children with autism, deal with on a daily basis.

As I write this I have gotten A out of the refrigerator 4 times. I have watched him eat 4 yogurts today. This is not because the child is hungry, it is not because he has Prader-Willi Syndrome (I know, we have had him tested) it is because he has an obsession with food. He finds something he likes and he can't stop eating it - all or nothing.

I have taken him to the beach, pulled him away from another boy's toys kicking and screaming, watched him knock over a mother and her child (that we do not know) trying to "say hello" while giving them a hug in the water and heard him talk incessantly about "Scout" the two year old that was kind to him and he has adopted as his new "best friend".

I have fed him every meal and watched him pick and choose what he ate while going back to the fridge for something I didn't put on his plate. He will eat anything and everything ON HIS TERMS.

I have pulled him off the counters 3 times, once off the fridge because he wanted something on top of the fridge or to flood the counter with the sprayer hose on the sink or to get something out of the freezer.

I have watched him hit his brother in the head with a toy for no apparent reason. Z has taken more abuse than any child should at the hands of his little brother.

I have listened to his shriek at a level only dogs should be able to hear because Z looked at him. The neighbors moved out a few months ago...there were numerous noise complaints.

I have changed his diaper 5 times, his swimmer once and gotten him dressed twice. His motor skills (and attention span) do not allow him to get dressed on his own and he is not potty trained (although yesterday we made it 5 hours in underwear).

And I have disciplined. I have put him in the corner, I have taken toys away, I have made him sit on the picnic table at the beach, I have threatened, I have yelled and I will be honest, in the past, I have tried spanking (and stopped because it doesn't work)...

This is my day...just today.

Tonight will be no different. You see, A does not sleep. He wakes anywhere from one to a dozen times each night with more energy than that stupid energizer bunny. I cannot remember the last full night of sleep I have gotten (in fact, 3 years ago I was in a major car accident in the middle of the day because I fell asleep at the wheel).

And there is rarely a break. While my family loves my children, I rarely EVER leave them with anyone. I am terrified of the havoc that ensues...and A gets terrified that I will"never come back". And, let's face it, nobody can watch my kids as well as I can...need I remind you of what happened in October?

I need to make VERY clear that I am one of the fortunate ones. There are many things that A does that children with "more severe" cases of autism do not.

My child speaks and he speaks clearly. He tells you how he is feeling, why he is feeling that way, when he will stop feeling that way...he talks like there is no tomorrow. Matter of fact, he doesn't stop talking. He even talks in his sleep. Whether or not what A is talking about makes any sense or has anything to do with what you are talking about is a very different story.

My child reads. He reads at a level that no kindergartner should read at. He reads everything and anything. He reads street signs while we are driving, emails over my shoulder, my blogs and ANYTHING else he can see.

My child is VERY social. Honestly, a bit too social. He could be taken in a moments notice. He would walk away with anyone. But that is because he loves people. He wants everyone to love him. But he has NO idea how to be a friend. Adults love him to pieces, children are annoyed by him or scared.

My child has no fear unless it is extreme fear. It is all or nothing, black and white. There is no gray area. He has no idea of what safety is. He will run out into the street but be terrified of getting run over. He will walk out into the water over his head but is terrified I am going to dunk him. He has an obsession with all emergency personnel and their gear (trucks, cars, stethoscopes, etc) but is terrified he is going to be arrested.

He has no boundaries. He does not know how to take two steps back when he is talking with someone. He hugs everyone. He forgets that someone might not like to be touched. He doesn't understand that the neighbor does not want him in his home. He forgets that his private parts are his and nobody else wants to see them or hear about them.

My day consists of being on high alert - all the time. There is no rest. I must be sure that I have his hand if we are anywhere near the road. I must be sure that I get him out of the fridge every time he runs for it or he will eat the raw hamburger sitting in there to defrost. I must be sure to stop him from tackling other people, "stealing" their toys or eating their food. I must avoid all dirty looks I get in the grocery store/post office/restaurant/playground because people want me to just discipline the naughty kid who screams when I say no or runs behind the counter or screams "FU@&ER" at the top of his lungs...

And you may wonder why he doesn't keep himself occupied. Me too...he has a room full of toys, trains and planes and books and stuffed animals and everything in between. He may play with one toy for 15 minutes - and he will play the same thing over and over and over,drive the same truck on the same path, bang the same two cars against each other... But he is not interested in really playing with his toys. He will not play with another person. Again, he is black and white and he either plays his way or no way and more often than not - it is no way.

And through all this, I see an angel. He wants nothing more than to be a good boy that everyone loves. He tells me on a daily basis how much he loves me and that I am the "best mother ever". If you gave me a pill to "fix" him I am not sure I would give it to him...because then I might lose the child that I love so very much.

Having said all that, Mr. Savage, please, come and take a day. I swear, if your discipline works, I will NEVER AGAIN mention the word autism. I will never believe a single person that says their child has autism.

Honestly, I could use a few hours to grocery shop without a child that eats/opens/throws everything I put in the cart. I would love to use a public restroom without a child that opens the door while I am sitting on the toilet - pants around my ankles. I would love to go to a movie where I could actually sit down and enjoy it rather than walk in and out 5+ times with a child who can't sit still. And I am sure that Z would love to have a day alone with his mommy.

And, in the end, I will become your biggest fan. And I know that I can say that and ask that of you, without any fear of my child being changed, because it doesn't work.

Lastly, I want to thank you. I want to thank you for making those statements. I want to remind you that no press is bad press. Your insensitive, ignorant remarks have caused enough of an uproar in the autistic community that idiots like you have now been educated. You have affected more people then you can imagine...thank you for helping to change to world for my son.


Molly said...

I can't even begin to imagine what you go through and the toll it takes on your life. A friend of mine has a son with Aspergers (www.flutterandfly.com) and we talked about this persons comments and she has a feeling that while they were strong, they were taken out of context. She has first hand experience with other people who simply want a label for their children because it is in vogue, because they can excuse normal bad behavior. It annoys the heck out of her because these people end up taking away resources that are needed for the children who really do suffer with autism. She thinks that is what Michael Savage was trying to get across to people but he just did a poor job at it.

I remember a few years ago it was the same with ADD and ADHD. Kids were restless and they were immediately labelled as problem children with ADD. It is easier to put a label on a kid than deal with the real problem for some people.

I know that it's hard for you being a single mom but it must be even harder when you have a child who has autism, so I just want to tell you that you are doing a fantastic job, and on the days you feel crappy, don't beat yourself up over it. You are ALLOWED to feel crappy from time to time.

Crazy Momma said...

You are absolutely right, Molly. It is very possible that his words were taken out of context and it is very possible that children are being mis/over diagnosed with autism.

However, there IS an epidemic. There are more children that are CLEARLY autistic (meaning they have the more "severe" symptoms) than 5, 10, 20 years ago.

And, yes, plenty of parents do everything they can to excuse bad behavior. I truly believe that there are children that are born with disabilities and there are those that are created by their families...it is unforunate.

Thank you for your supportive words. It is hard...but I keep reminding myself that god doesn't give me anything more than I can handle. He certainly has a funny sense of what I can handle, though :)

Nicki said...

You know how I feel and what I live with everyday and I am so glad and so NOT glad I have someone to scream with on the phone lol. It's funny how we take turns saying the same thing to our kids... you go... I go.... you go.... I go.... lol. And you are right we are fourtunate, we have it "good" compared to what it could be. And maybe that dickhead sees brats, but what he doesn't see is the pain we have, and the pain our kids have because they want to be good, and can't and because as strong and as patient as we try to be, we aren't saints so we yell at them anyway. I feel TREMENDOUS guilt over that. I feel so much guilt right now because as I sit here I am plotting ways to avoid teeball so I don't have to watch him hold the same bat all game so no one else will take "his bat" so that I don't have to watch him throw dirt at kids and hit them because they get the ball, so that I don't have to be the mom that everyone stares at when her kid screams as he is running full force at the other kids so that he can get the ball. So yeah maybe that asswipe (I am sorry for the language but man when I read that it ticked me off) should be cursed, and blessed at the same time with a child that despite it's and his best efforts cant' control everything in their life.

Crazy Momma said...

You know, this is one of the MANY, MANY, MANY reasons that I love you! YOU GET IT!

And, while I wish you didn't have to, the selfish part of me loves it!

Molly said...

There is either an epidemic of it (which is possibly very true due to all the poisenous things that our bodies consume unknowingly) or it is just identified more than what it used to be because more people are aware of it. It could be a combination of both. I am not saying that the vaccines are the cause of it, but I don't think that some of them helped with toxic ingredients.

Look, some days I feel like never facing the world ever again and the pain and loneliness of being a single parent is overwhelming. But you plod on and it gets better. I am in awe of you because not only are you handling this, you have added stresses too.

Sometimes Sophia said...

You are a great mom and a champion for kids and parents who struggle with autism. Keep speaking out.

This particular post is extremely well done. Our prayers are with you.

Feliz said...

I have to second sometimes sophia and say that you are a great mom. I also think that most moms would give a resounding, "SUCK IT!" to Mr. Savage. Obviously his parents didn't do a very good job of parenting him because they did not teach him empathy or manners. You are doing a great job and I applaud you.

WheresMyAngels said...

I think it is pretty horrid that he said that and I would be so mad. There are so many people that can push you over the edge with their words, on a bad day. He is living in a world that hasn't been touched by Autism, so his ignorance is bliss to him.

Big hugs, I have so many days with my Mercede that are so frustrating but I love her and wouldn't change that much of her!! Except the OCD, I really could do without it! lol

"The Queen in Residence" said...

I saw you on the Saucey blog and wanted to come and say hello. But then I read, and I got mad, and then I felt compasion. It is only those that have not walked in anothers shoes that truly do not get it!!! I have a dear friend who has an adorable son, that also has autism. Our family loves him, he is my sons' best buddy and he is such a wonderful person, like you said they are so full of love. It has not been easy, but all those things that Mr. Savage said are ramblings of a fool. No kid is ever going to respond to that kind of controlling manipulation, ever!!! Thank you for not giving in to all those misguided fools that do not understand autism and just want to pass it off as bad behavior and poor parenting.

my2boyz said...

WOW! I am in tears right now not becasue I have pitty for you(no one wants pitty and I do not give it) but because you are one brave/stong/dedicated/special woman. I am so very fortunate that I have 2 very happy and healty boys. If you were here I would give you a big hug and watch your son for you while you went to the grocery store.
just found your blog today and I will be back.

Trish said...

Hi, thanks for stopping by my blog!

I do believe that Mr. Savage's comments were taken out of text and likely said in a manner which did not prtray his true meaning. However, that does not by any means lessen what Autism has done to your family. I am always amazed at the amount of strength, faith and committment it takes to raise an child with Autism.

So, my new blog friend, I wish you strength to carry on for your precious son who need YOU as his advocate more then anything else.

Swirl Girl said...

I can't imagine what you go through on a daily basis. And I would imagine there are some days when you want to chuck it all.

but your kids are so lucky that you don't.

Dawn@Embracing the Ordinary Life said...

It's a shame that people still feel like it's ok to talk about things they have no earthly buisness talking about...a situation like that is only truly know through experience...which he obviously has NONE.

You are a good and brave mother. I have an energetic child that drives me crazy most days...so I have no idea how I would handle a day like yours...
The best to you...and thank you for sharing.

Jessi said...

Erica, I've read this 3 times now and I am still at a loss for words. It sounds like pure ignorance to me.

I think you are amazing. Keep doing what you are doing and hope he has the opportunity to be blessed with knowing a child with Autism.

Christy said...

I was not online yesterday and I missed this post, I'm sorry. I'm just unbelievably shocked that someone could say--and worse, honestly believe that kind of crap.

Your son is lucky to have you for a mother. You are doing all of the right things, and most of all you are giving him the unconditional love that can move mountains.

Don't for a second let such an insensitive asshole make you feel badly or second guess yourself. HE is the idiot. Hugs to you! :)

wehave9 said...

I just found you through Sits...I too have a son with autism, our boys sound alot alike...please visit my blog and scroll all the way to the bottom of the first page and you will see my son's story. I would love to speak with you and compare some strategies or just stories. I have noone to talk to about my son. My blog is http://lifewithour9.blogspot.com