Quoted and noted: ‘Strange Son’

15 Apr

Strange Son: Two  Mothers, Two Sons, and the Quest to Unlock the Hidden World of Autism” is by Portia Iversen, the woman who founded Cure Autism Now, the group that eventually merged with Autism Speaks.

When her son was diagnosed with autism, Iversen turned into a research machine, and she read about an autistic boy and his mother in India, Tito and Soma. Though much struggle, she found researchers who were willing to study Tito, and she brought him and his mother to LA in an effort to learn more about autism.

What made Tito so unique was his ability to communicate. Tito is severely autistic, but Soma was able to work with him and an alphabet board to teach him to write. Eventually, what came out were essays, poetry, undeniable intelligence. Iversen was able to work with Tito and converse with him via e-mail. What she read did not correlate with what she encountered when she spent time with Tito: He flapped and stimmed incesently, and he could grow violent.

In “Strange Son,” Iversen shares a number of Tito’s essays and poems. This one is particularly moving because of how thoroughly he describes what it is like to have autism. Does Joey think like this?

Sometimes I wonder what could have happened if I were to be
a normal individual rather than an autistic person.
The day would have been the same one. A Saturday.
The month would be the same month of July.
And I would be turning fourteen after a few days.
There would be the same experience of a warm summer noon
as I am experiencing now.
And may be I would be playing with other boys my age
or writing some love letters to a newly found face in secret.

Many things could have happened and many things could not have happened.

For example I would be an ordinary normal boy not even having the term autism in my vocabulary. I would be aware of the term disability and may be knowing about two types of disability.

I would know about the physical disability and about the mental disability. And I would perhaps be vaguely curious about them. I would hear someone’s distant cousin has some mental disability or someone’s uncle had problems walking and so he needed a wheelchair. The word disability would come up as an idle topic to chat. I would try and imagine a middle-aged man struggling in his wheel chair or imagine a distant cousin of somebody being ‘baby talked’ to although he is twelve years of age.

And then I would have forgotten about them because I would be too engaged with all the fun happening around me.

It would be none of my business to think about that because I would be pretty far from every thing that was imperfect in this world. I would rather stay away from it.

And one day I would meet some strange individual in a super market who would be of my age perhaps and would act in a different way like someone from a distant planet, by chance coming down to earth, not knowing the ways of this planet.

I would see him flap hishands, as if he had nothing to do with any thing else, other than his own hands. I would stand near him to have a second look but then realize that I should not hurt his mother who is trying with her great effort to grab his hands so that the boy stopped flapping because like me many more eyes are now on him.

I would realize that I was getting late and hurry myself away from the place.

I would have belonged to this planet.

Many other things could have happened now while I sit and write all these could haves.

And again what could not have happened is this. I would not have the rich experience of this strange life of mine. I would be staying in a distant remote corner of India and growing up with the experience of any one who grows up with a secured belief in a secured family environment. There would be dreams of becoming a doctor or an engineer so that I could join the world in the rat race of success.

What about my dream of becoming a writer? Perhaps it would be there waiting with a dormant kind of probability. Perhaps I would not even recognize that dream because it would have been buried under the load of home works and the responsibility of passing the tests.

Or what about my book Beyond the Silence? It would not even have any existence becaue there would not be any kind of silence.

~Tito

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One Response to “Quoted and noted: ‘Strange Son’”

  1. Joyce April 15, 2010 at 8:52 pm #

    Wow

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