Monday, August 31, 2015


Yes dear readers, it's time for cognitive dissonance to again rear it's ugly head.  The "forecast" would seem to indicate that Nathan's senior year will be rife with it.  It's becoming harder and harder to avoid wondering if all my efforts to promote awareness, acceptance, and understanding are making any real headway, or are they just a cute novelty that lets people feel good about themselves each April while doing so with unchanged thoughts, feelings, and beliefs toward Autistic people.
I've long identified with "Don Quixote" in his quest to prove his merits as a knight errant by righting wrongs, defending the defenseless, and demanding honor for the downtrodden.  The only problem with the "dear Don" is that he is patently insane.  I've long accepted that when one undertakes Quixotic quests, either he, by definition, or the world around him is also "patently insane".  Herein lies my dilemma.

My foes are somewhat difficult to describe, much less name.  Ignorance is the most obvious, but there are other, equally insidious windmills to be jousted.  If I can not name them, I will at least do my best to describe them.

This past Friday's game was Nathan's first appearance as an on-field sports trainer.  At West Monroe High School earning such a position requires high grades in Sports Medicine classes and large amounts of "clinical" time learning the skills required.  Taping doesn't come as easily for him, so he largely handles "hydration duty".  He's a highly trained "water boy", but is also trained to help with any number of other tasks if called upon.  The job isn't glamorous, but in the Louisiana heat, is absolutely vital to keeping the players healthy.  Nathan is the proudest "water boy" on earth.  He performs his tasks with great diligence.  The joy on his face when he is on the job is unmistakable.

During the game, a friend asked me the dreaded "what's after high school" question.  Being that this is someone I value and trust, I gave an honest answer of utilizing social services to get him a part time job and that he would continue his education, first at the local community college.  His next question struck me like a shovel to the face.  "Are you preparing him to live in a group home?"  I was stunned almost beyond words.  My answer was of course "no".  Nathan will finish high school with above a 3.0 cumulative GPA.  He is actually more prepared to live on his own than most kids preparing to leave for college next fall.

Here's where the cognitive dissonance comes in.  If I can't adequately show Nathan's abilities, intellect, and potential to someone who has been in our lives for years now, what chance do I have getting it done on behalf of kids I can't defend to an audience I'll never meet?

Social media was again filled with his classmates and "friends" taking selfies after the game and celebrating the win.  Many in his class participated in a community improvement project on Saturday (painting the town's flood wall with self-styled artistic images).  Lots of pictures.  No Nathan.  We had no idea folks from his graduating class were involved.  Probably the only thing worse than underestimated is forgotten, non-extant.
It all leaves me wondering "what the hell am I actually" doing here?  Am I jousting windmills or fighting real monsters?  Am I changing the world in some small way, or am I just providing people with a yearly "low-cost, warm, fuzzy feeling".  Are the images on my arms inspiring reminders to think differently, or scars from a war I never had a chance of winning?

Most importantly, do I pound the dents out of my armor, craft a new lance, and prepare for the next battle, or do I place my splintered lance on the pile of those from other failed adventures, and hang my breastplate above the mantle as a reminder of battles that my heart demanded, but my head should have quashed before the first charge was made.

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