One of the gifts pastoral professions bestow upon those who practice them is the time to think deeply about ethics, and sometimes even to come up with some answers. A subject I have thought about deeply, in the last year in particular, is my responsibility as a community leader on the autism spectrum.
For many years I have kept the knowledge of my autism to myself. I always thought, this is who I am, and it is really no one’s affair except my own, and no one will care anyway. But that is not actually true.
I’m writing this now, and sharing my experience, for my son Elisha.
At seven, Elisha inhabits a deeper band of the autism spectrum than I ever did. Will he ever have the words? Will he ever be able to advocate for himself and his needs? I do not know.
And if that is the case, I owe the beautiful human being who is my son to speak on his behalf. I want to understand him and what he needs to lead a fulfilling life, and I want to find a way to give it to him.
Because it is both my fault and my privilege that Elisha is autistic. Autism runs strong in the genes of my family. I went ahead and procreated with the full knowledge that I might have children like me, and Elisha is such a precious blessing, a sphinx whose puzzle I have not solved. And so I will force myself to become even more eloquent, to turn over every rock, so that I can facilitate a meaningful and fulfilling life for my beautiful boy.
But there is more than my personal obligation to my son: There is my moral obligation to all my fellow journeyers on the spectrum. As a relatively articulate member of those who inhabit the various bands of the autism spectrum, I have the duty to speak up, to become an advocate because I can, while so many of us cannot.