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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Dear Sir

I think I may have had one of those out of body experiences today. Something happened and it was like I could see myself still sitting there but in my head I was screaming "Is this really happening?" Here's how it went down: A few months ago a dear family friend approached me and Brad with an idea that really resonated with us. She has a heart for people with special needs and a lot of talent to offer. She had a plan for how we could merge our collective talents and do something pretty cool. No more details on that right now; I'll just say that it was an idea that was big and good. So big and good in fact, that we felt we needed to get some outside expertise on it. So we set up a meeting and went to seek advice from a professional. My friend even took a vacation day and drove several hours to meet me for this--that's how much she believes in what we want to do. We talked excitedly on the way to the meeting and we were so pumped up. 

We sat down and made our introductions. We laid out our backgrounds, our credentials, and our passion. And then we waited for words of wisdom. What happened, well it was the opposite of wisdom. 

Almost as if he were telling us a great confidence, our "professional" told us that we might want to target those in poverty stricken areas, since that's where autism usually arises. We were taken aback, as this is a completely erroneous idea. Autism occurs in all countries, states, races, and it most certainly knows no socioeconomic boundaries. I tried to explain this and was told that these things happen in poverty stricken areas because of inbreeding. INBREEDING!!! Y'all, I can't even. I've heard some pretty whack causes of autism but that takes the cake. Needless to say, my friend and I were shocked. We tried to educate, we really did. I'm not sure any of it got through, but we both tried. We were gracious, because we are gracious people. And also because Brad had the kids and we didn't want to have to call him for bail money. 

You know how sometimes someone just says something so completely out of left field that you aren't even sure how to respond and later you think of all the things you wish you had said but didn't? That's kind of what happened to us. So just to get this off my chest, here it goes:

Dear Sir,

We came to you with a great idea and a whole lot of passion. You didn't provide much of the help we were seeking, but you certainly reminded us that we are passionate for a reason. We were just talking on the way to your office that we (perhaps naively) believed the word is pretty well out about autism awareness. You proved that there are still people around us that are so very unaware, whether we realized it or not. You reminded us that a person can be very well educated yet still remain ignorant. Autism is a complex neurological disorder that may be poorly understood, but I feel confident in saying the medical community at least agrees that it isn't caused by being poor or inbreeding. There is strong evidence of a genetic cause for many cases of autism; however you would do well to learn that a genetic basis does not equal parents who are related to each other. I wish you could meet the geneticist who works with my family. He's a true example of a professional; brilliant AND compassionate. 

Autism is characterized by a lack of social skills. But Sir, after you informed us that back when you were in school people referred to people with autism as "idiots" and made your whole spiel about the poverty and inbreeding AFTER I had told you that I was the proud mother of a son with autism illustrates the fact that they are not the only ones with a lack of social skills. You may have meant to make me feel stupid, but you didn't. I'm in charge of how I feel, and you don't have my permission to make me feel stupid. 

I do feel sad to know that people like you still exist. People that don't see my son as an amazing individual. People that are part of the problems in the world and not part of the solutions. I told you today that until it happens to you, most people don't care about it. That's a sad statement, but I've found it to be true. All your money, your degrees, and the letters after your name won't protect you from having a grandchild with autism. However, I really hope that doesn't happen to you. Not because I would feel sorry for you having to deal with that, but because I would feel sorry for the kid having to deal with YOU. 

Melissa Essary


My family and I went on to have a great evening. Here I am enjoying a night out with my awesome son with autism, his precious service dog, my lovely daughter, and my husband, who is not a blood relative. 

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