Parenting the deeper bands on the Spectrum | Tzemah Yoreh


Parenting the deeper bands on the Spectrum

We are blessed with four children, three are neurotypical extroverts, gregarious, vexing, and absolutely delightful human beings. Our fourth child, Elisha was more like me, quiet and introspective, and so very gentle. At three it was clear that Elisha’s verbal development was lagging, and sometime later he was diagnosed with moderate-severe autism.

This was both heartbreaking news and wonderful. Heartbreaking because of the enormous parenting challenges that faced us to help Elisha find his way, and wonderful because I understood, or at least I thought I understood something of autism. I too inhabit the spectrum, the so-called Asperger’s band, and I thought I could give Elisha something I never had, a parent who understood.

I don’t know if I was right.

In a recent Newsweek article I speak openly about the joys and challenges of raising my beautiful child and ask whether he loves me.

Were it not for my Elisha, I would not have had the courage to write my most recent book, So Compassionate it Hurts: My Life as a Rabbi on the Spectrum. I wrote it for him.

At eight, 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. And so I have forced myself to leave my comfort zone, 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.

I hope I can help.

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The Gifts of the Neuro-atypical

Here is one of my favorite sections of my book. I promise you there is more to come!