A bunch of stereotypes all in my head

This BLOG entry has to do with a horrible experience my son lived through yesterday. The adults involved in this situation let him down and yes, I will take the brunt of the blame. Something was recommended to me and I should have refused on Keyan’s behalf but I didn’t. I failed my son. I failed to be his voice.

My gut instinct thought “no” it won’t work but at the time I had no alternate solution to offer. I didn’t want to complicate things so I went along with it. In the end, it was the wrong decision. My son had a “fight or flight” response and he was immediately judged. Things got worse when I received a phone call that left me feeling as though my son was something likened to an animal. I spent the rest of the day crying. I locked myself in the bathroom, cried my face off while soaking in a hot tub while listening to this… 

Same Love by Macklemore and Ryan Lewis 

is one of my favorites songs of all time. This song moves me in ways I can’t fully explain. This past summer I went to a Macklemore concert with my daughter and while he performed the song I cried. I cried the whole time and I didn’t hold back. It’s a spiritual anthem about homosexuality with the message that love is love. 

There are lyrics in the song that I apply to loving someone with special needs. No one has ever written a Top 40 single about the struggles, love and life of people living with special needs. So what I do is pick apart song lyrics and apply it to our lives. Allow me to do that now… 

A bunch of stereotypes all in my head I remember doing the math like "Yeah, I'm good a little league" pre-conceived idea of what it all meant

When I listen to this line at the beginning of the song it makes me think of when I was younger and had preconceived notions of people with special needs. Growing up I felt sorry for the parents of those raising special needs kids. Kids who couldn’t talk, drooled and pushed themselves in a wheelchair, all the while burdening their parents with their existence. I know that prior to the 1980’s parents were strongly advised to institutionalize their children. Treated and regarded back then as animal like. 

you can be cured with some treatment and religion

There was a time in human history that having a child with special needs meant that the parents were cursed and others were strongly advised to stay at a distance (you didn’t want to pass anything unto your family). Many parents abandoned their children – leaving them at church doors. Unfortunately, having a child with special needs was blamed on the parents – as though they were at fault. History is cruel and not so long ago people were given lobotomies. Image!? There is no cure or treatment to change my precious son. 

Man-made, rewiring of a pre-disposition. Playing God Ahh nah, here we go America the brave Still fears what we don't know And God loves all his children it's somehow forgotten But we paraphrase a book written 3, 500 hundred years ago I don't know

Despite our advances in medicine and modern day technology we can’t merely rewire our brains. We can’t change to fit into a mold society frames for us. We are all born beautiful regardless of sex, gender, love, ability or disability. Sadly, people still fear what they don’t know. Instead of learning and opening ourselves up to possibility we put up walls. If God loves all of us regardless how we are born then why can’t we simply love each other? I am not talking romantic love but rather the love of acceptance of others. It is absolutely mind boggling to imagine a world where we all loved one another. 

Here is the chorus. It’s so powerful. Every time I listen to these words I get chills. It’s a human being pleading – trying to make you understand – the way I am is not a choice. These are words I picture my son repeating in his head. He can’t change for anyone – even if he tried – he is a prisoner to his autistic brain* – he can’t be normal – he is himself. 

And I can't change Even if I tried Even if I wanted to And I can't change Even if I tried Even if I wanted to

The second part of the chorus I imagine Keyan singing this about me – his “mama bear” because she is the only one that will ever truly love him. The only one that has dedicated her life to caring and protecting him.

My love, my love, my love She keeps me warm She keeps me warm She keeps me warm She keeps me warm

I remember when I was of school age when we wanted to belittle someone we would say “you’re such a retard” or later on it changed to “you’re so gay”. I have to admit I spewed out those words not ever thinking of the repercussions that would have on an individual who would either have a mental disability or who was gay (and all those who were an extension of that person). I was mirroring everyone else too stupid to break it down or really think about what I was saying. In retrospect I have great remorse and for those I have offended I am deeply sorry. I now know what it means to live on the other side of that derogatory slur. It hurts – it hurts bad. 

If I was gay I would think hip-hop hates me Have you read the Youtube comments lately "Man that's gay" Gets dropped on the daily We've become so numb to what we're sayin'

Recently it has come to my attention that the new derogatory slur has become “you’re so autistic” or “man tes ben don autiste”. These phrases are being used in school hallways everywhere today. Just think 1/44 children live with autism – they have brothers and sister who walk the same hallways. The number of people these words affect is astounding! I have raised my daughter to realize – words have power so choose them wisely. Please teach your children the same.

Gay is synonymous with the lesser

This phrase cuts deep because I know there are those who see my son as a lesser human being. He might not be able to do a lot of things – yes, the list is extremely long on what he cannot do but I will tell you this, I firmly believe that every human born has a right to life. I believe they not only have the right to life but the right to live their best life possible. Don’t look down on another human being. My son is not lesser for a million reasons. Keyan with his mere 15 years on this earth has taught us so much. Not just to my family but to all those who know our family. Take a moment – think about it – if you are reading this blog it’s all because Keyan was born to us. 

When everyone else Is more comfortable remaining voiceless Rather than fighting for humans, that have had their rights stolen I might not be the same But that's not important No freedom 'til we're equal Damn right I support it

I have dedicated the past 10 years of my life advocating for families living with autism. Whenever I hear the word voiceless my antenna automatically goes up. For a girl who was born to speak a lot, speak loudly and speak up – I have chosen to do just that. I speak for families living with autism – who struggle on the daily just to get through – who never had a voice – who need a voice - I speak for them. I am proud that I have the fight in me – to fight for all human rights! 

We press play Don't press pause Progress, march on!

This one line reminds me to continue to fight when I have lost all hope. When I am deflated.

Their kids are walkin' around the hallway Plagued by pain in their heart A world so hateful, some would rather die than be who they are

This is one of the harder lyrics in the song. For those who are higher functioning on the autism spectrum they feel their difference and it pains them. They do not have the tools to break down the imaginary wall that keeps them away from the “normal” kids. Last year I was privy to a horrendous situation where a group of students created an Instagram account dedicated to making fun of their fellow classmates on the spectrum. They thought nothing wrong with it. Everyday for months they sat behind their phones and uploaded pictures and videos to share. Mocking people who already struggled on the daily – who live with autism but may also suffer from anxiety, depression and learning difficulties. Imagine being kicked over and over and over and over when you are already on the ground? That is what it’s like when other people ridicule you. It’s so lonely. “Some would rather die than be who they are”…those words haunt me! They should haunt you too.

The next set of lyrics is meant to provide hope – to restore our faith in humanity. The organ plays in the background to remind us that this is holy scripture…Love is God. Love is everything.

We have to change us. Whatever God you believe in We come from the same one Strip away the fear Underneath it's all the same love About time that we raised up

I close with this thought. Today is a new day. If I move forward with love and patience, then I can’t fail my son. I will continue to make mistakes but I will rise above and learn from them. Every day is a struggle but with the love that surrounds us we can move on.

Love is patient, love is kind Love is patient

Thank you for reading - xox

*an autistic brain is amazing but society hasn’t given people with those brains a fair chance. Not yet anyway. I pray that in my lifetime that changes and that we learn to make space for everyone.  

© 2018 Audrey Burt

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