Thursday, April 05, 2007

Oprah's Show on Autism (Journal #64)

I wasn't sure if I was going to post my thoughts of Oprah, and her "Faces of Autism" show, as I needed some time to process it all. But, here I go anyway. The Autism Blogosphere has been full of chatters, ranging from the disappointment of Oprah not doing her homework, but relying on the stats and info from Autism Speaks, to some of the negative views of Autism that the "Speaks girls" can portray, to the whole vaccine topic being thrown out again by the daughter of Autism Speaks founders, (the Wrights).

Yes, I had a lot of mixed emotions while watching it, and was gritting my teeth, mostly through the first segment hoping for some positive discussion and not just negative portrayal. I was happy for Oprah's attempt though, in doing the show, in getting the word out, so that we can continue to strive for more autism acceptance. That was the biggest blessing. Also, I loved the father at the end who reminded us all of how much we get from our little ones with autism.

The part of the show that was the hardest for me (believe it or not was not the part when Katie went mad about vaccines causing autism***) was the sibling segment. What life is like for a sibling. Ask Zach. I did, as we watched that portion of the show together.

I struggle with all the time I spend with Sam compared to the time I spend with Zach. It really hit home with me a week ago. Zach, our oldest NT son was sick. He is rarely sick. He had a high fever for a couple days, could barely walk, and was extremely out of it. He needed a lot of my time. I also just wanted to spend time snuggling with him and rubbing his hot forehead. Mothers of 9 1/2 year old boys dream of times like this, because those opportunities fade fast at this age. I hardly had time to take care of Zach it seemed. I recall myself actually almost yelling at Sam that he needed to go play, as he paced the foot of the bed back and forth saying then screaming over and over "tome on mommy, tome on mommy, tome on mommy". I needed to be Zach's mom and show him that as well.

I have written before about how we divide time as a family a lot. I am thankful for a husband who has kept up with our plan since the beginning of this journey, and that plan was to never take time away from Zach. Even though Brent travels a lot, he makes sure to do lots of regular things with Zach. They weekly enjoy chess and checkers together at a favorite coffee shop on Saturday mornings. They go for special walks around the lake. Zach and I sneak in playing some PS2 after brother is asleep some nights. But it still seems like there isn't enough time to give him the time he always deserves.

So, I did it, after we watched Oprah's siblings of autism segment, I asked Zach if he felt like the boy on the show. The boy who said he never got attention, that in fact he had to create his own little world, kind of like his brother's sometimes, that his parents are always giving his brother attention and not him. My relief was Zach's expression (that typical duh look that 3rd graders are learning to do so well) followed by a quick "I don't ever feel like that. Actually, I get extra stuff with you and dad that he doesn't." He then went on to refer our silly nights watching our tivo shows after brother is in bed, his favorite being the nights his father, him and I are laughing hysterically at Dwight on The Office.

A Twist of Faith
I am thankful for the way Brent and I are working together for this family, for being on the same page, for keeping our family a family. We had a friend tell us, shortly after we received Sam's diagnosis, that families with autism have a divorce rate of 80 percent, top that off with a husband whose profession also boasts one of the highest divorce rates...we are both thankful and blessed that God leads us both on this journey. Thankful that we have supportive family, friends and faith.
"always giving thanks to God the Father for everything, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ." ~Ephesians 5:20

(***Note~ for our family, our personal experience and belief is that vaccines are and were not a factor in Sam's diagnosis. I have the lot numbers from his vaccines to prove it.)


Anonymous said...

The sibling segment hit me pretty hard too. My NT child is only 3, so not yet fully aware of the special circumstances that affect our family.

The sibling segment showed what I do not want to happen. I'm so glad that Zach said he never felt that way about Sam. That is what I'm striving for too.

Lora said...

It is so great that Zach feels that way, what a huge relief! Must mean that you two are doing a great job with him and Sam so KUDOS to you!

mumkeepingsane said...

I have the similar feelings about the Oprah show on Autism. I too asked Patrick's older brother how he felt. It was good to find out that he did not feel in any way negatively affected by his brother's autism. I personally think his experience with an autistic brother is helping to shape him into a wonderful, caring, and compassionate person.

GClef1970 said...

Thanks for coming to my blog and letting me know that you wrote about the Oprah show, too. Bloglines didn't let me know that you had updated. :-)

The sibling segment really hit me like a brick because we have been waffling on when (if?) to have another child. Although each passing day brings improvement, Conor takes up a LOT of time and energy. I keep trying to remind myself that God gives us everything we need, and that includes enough time for all and any children.
Regarding the vaccine aspect of the show: we, too, are another set of parents who do not believe that the vaccines played a role in Conor's autism. There was no marked downslide, he never lost language, reached all of his developmental milestones and had absolutely no reaction to any of his vaccines (MMR or otherwise). This is not to say that there is not validity to those who believe that there is a correlation for their children, but I just wanted you to know that you're not the only family out there who has ruled it out.

I pray the same prayer. Thank you Lord that Conor's diagnosis strengthened our already blessed marriage.

kristina said...

What a wonderful brother; what a wonderful boy!

I was really affected by that father's final words. We've moved---migrated----too and I knew just how he felt when he talked about looking back at the house they were leaving, forever, but for something he knew was so important and necessary--helping their son.

Keep the faith---hope Zach is much better.

KC's Blog said...

I love the picture of the boys sitting together looking at a book, warms my heart:)
I watched some of the Oprah show but missed most of it :(
Love, family and faith in God makes us strong and holds us all together. You are an awesome Mommy:)

bigwhitehat said...

I'm new here.

Looks to me like you have an interesting blog.

My have several children and only one Autie, we call him Tiger. My problem is not so much time but Tiger constantly feels left out when the other children play away.

We also have some religious tradition in common. I gather that you are DoC and I am CoC. Small world.

chrisd said...

I watched the Oprah special too and thought it was a good overview. However, there's just so much more to talk about.

I was glad to see them talk about sibs too as I have 2 not on the spectrum.

The thing that bothered me was that the people they interviewed were fairly well off. Would liked to have seen other points of view.

My son is 10yo asperger's/hyperlexia. Hope you have a great week.

mysamiam said...

Chrisd~ welcome and thanks for stopping by. I agree that I would have liked to have seen families from more diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Not everyone can afford the therapies and enrichment materials that our children need when insurance doesn't cover the costs. Some families also can't afford to send their children to the "best" autism schools when they are not happy with their public schools. It is very tough.

Bigwhitehat~ nice to meet you also. Yes I am Christian Church (Disciples Of Christ) in my adult life, and was raised United Church of Christ. Thanks for stopping by.

Everyone else~ thanks for your kind comments in regards to Zach. He is an incredible brother. He just deserves more of my time and patience than he gets. We aren't perfect and still have lots we will need to work through to help him too. It is very hard for him in understanding his brother sometimes.

Melissa~ I understand your thoughts on children. We want lots of kids, but you need to measure what time you have to give to them. You also need to know that there is a lot of research out there that shows siblings of kids with special needs also grow up to be some of the most compassionate and understanding people as adults. God has a plan for your family in His time. "Keep the faith" as Kristina said. :)

Unknown said...

I never seem to watch Autism shows. I either miss them or am not interested. I guess I fiure they never show me anything I don;t already know...

sometimes I think I am glad all three of my kids are on the spectrum.

It sounds like you and your husband are doing a great job!