December 02, 2008
(Apologies in advance for the screediness of this post. I slipped in my socks and fell flat on my ass while attempting to kick a foam soccer ball into a miniature goal in my living room this morning, so perhaps it's my wounded pride [and backside] lashing out at its inner child, or some such.)
(For something more fluffy, feel free to visit the Luvs Momspeak site for my entry about Ghetto Fabulous Bargain Baby-Proofing.)
I currently find myself irrationally angry at Denis Leary.
Okay, let me back up. Denis Leary was on The Daily Show last week, where he attempted to clarify this passage from his book, from a chapter called "Autism Schmautism:"
I don't give a fuck what these crackerjack whack jobs tell you—yer kid is NOT autistic. He's just stupid. Or lazy. Or both.
HA HA! Oh, funny fucking shit, that.
So in case you missed the 284304822343489 blog entries about this, uh...yeah. KIND OF NOT THE BEST THING TO SAY. The excerpt appeared in the New York Post, parents went nuts, people got angry, the Autism Society of America essentially told Leary to go fuck himself, and as of this morning, "DENIS LEARY AUTISM" is still the very first suggestion that the Google search bar offers you when you type in his name.
But! Dudes! You totally took that out of context.
So as part of the Denis Leary Big Fucking Apology Media Blitz (aka the book ain't selling so well), he appeared on The Daily Show, where he essentially repeated a canned statement he already released. A canned statement that SURELY was thought through and would make everything better.
(Oh my God, he did NOT just pull the "but some of my best friends are autistic!" thing. He did NOT.)
("BFFs! Really! I LOVE AUTISTIC PEOPLE AND THEIR BOOK-BUYING PARENTS!")
On The Daily Show, however, Denis left out that "grown men" bit, and instead went on and on about parents. (Here's a link to the episode -- Denis appears in the last segment.) Parents are seeking low-level special needs diagnoses for their kids as some kind of get-out-of-jail-free card for their children's bad behavior. Bad behavior that is a direct result of bad parenting.
Question. What "low-level special needs diagnoses" are you NOW expertly calling bullshit on, Denis Leary? PDD-NOS? Aspergers? Sensory Integration Disorders? Because now you're shitting really close to my own lawn, dude, and I've got a really long and pointy-ass rake.
(He then reiterated AGAIN that he totally knows a family dealing with "real" autism and knows how TERRIBLE AWFUL DEATH-SENTENCE-Y this "real" autism thing is. Like seriously, worst disease EVER! A lifetime of drudgery with a non-verbal kid who bites you and hand-flaps in a corner all day. That's not really my fight to pick with him, except that I AM SO SICK of people using autism -- and a misinformed and narrow view of the spectrum at that -- as a catch-all boogeyman to strike fear in the hearts of parents everywhere. Vaccinate? AUTISM. Get an extra ultrasound? AUTISM. Use a microwave while pregnant? AUTISM. Meanwhile, I know plenty of parents who actually LIKE and ENJOY and LOVE their autistic children just fine! And their children love them back! Like they're real people or something! Imagine that!)
So, first. I get that Denis Leary is a comedian. I read the excerpt ages ago and while I thought it was dumb and misinformed and just highly ridiculously DUMB, I didn't get worked up over it. He's a comedian. He went for incendiary and controversial and frankly, he nailed it. South Park, Team America, Tropic Thunder -- three movies I laughed a lung out over; three movies that all had moments where I went, "duuude, I think they may have just gone far enough to kind of offend me." And then I went, "touche, good sirs. Tou-fucking-che."
But if you're going to backtrack on that incendiary and controversial statement when it doesn't pan out the way you wanted, when it appears that you indeed went waaaay too far, when it's hurting your sales figures and you start making the rounds of an I-Was-Taken-Out-Of-Context Media Tour, THAT'S when I'm going to take the words you say seriously.
And, second. This totally isn't about Denis Leary. This is about the last few days and weeks around here, as we attempt to navigate through Speech Delays v.2.0.
The school district -- and we live in a "good" and well-funded school district -- may provide Noah with some speech services. Services that we have already witnessed first-hand and realize that they simply won't be enough to get Noah where we think he needs to be, and where he's capable of being. There's a lowest-common-denominator aspect to the programs that hurt kids with the more mild (SOME MIGHT SAY "LOW LEVEL") delays and disabilities. Noah was always near the top of the Early Intervention scale of need. Put him in a classroom with neuro-atypical kids and other more serious disorders and he looks pretty good. He can hook himself onto the bottom rung of the ladder of "normal," and that's about as high as the free services are obligated to lift him. Which is exactly what already happened and what led to EI ending his services.
But. Put him in a classroom with neuro-typical kids and kids with zero speech or sensory issues and suddenly it doesn't look so great. He loves school, but that doesn't mean it's a perfect fit. His first progress report (we got it yesterday) was heartbreakingly abysmal. He tries hard to communicate with his teachers and peers, but no one can understand him. He still melts down over every transition. He cannot tolerate operating in the group for more than a few minutes. He needs constant one-on-one attention that the teachers cannot give. He is not demonstrating skills that I know he knows -- I looked at row after row of capital Is (for "Introduced," basically the lowest mark he can get) with a huge lump in my throat. He knows how to do that! And that! He's smart, I swear. I really swear he's a smart, loving, wonderful kid.
But he's struggling. In preschool.
And you know what, Denis Leary? If I were a bad or lazy parent, I wouldn't fucking give a shit. I wouldn't spend hours researching doctors and specialists in search of answers or therapy or a way to help my child NOT struggle in school and social situations. I would sit back and shrug my shoulders and tell myself that it will all work itself out by kindergarten. But I'd like to get my son a bigger boost up that ladder, Denis Leary, because I think he's capable of it and I believe in him and I believe it's my fucking job as his mother to get him that boost.
And you know what else, Denis Leary? You know why parents want those low-level diagnoses? It's not to ease our guilt or abdicate our responsibility for our child's "bad" behavior. It's because that's the fucking way the fucking system works, jackass. Call up your health insurance (if you've got it! ha ha!) and find out what kind of coverage they offer for, say, speech therapy.
Now find out what kind of conditions they put on it, and find out what conditions and diagnoses they exclude. Dyslexia? Articulation problems? Abnormal speech development? "Speech problems that are educational in nature?"
Now once you've asked the nice insurance rep what the fuck that even means, and well, what kind of diagnosis DOES get you the speech therapy coverage, and recieved absolutely no answer or guidance, you may realize that hell, the next phone call better be to a developmental pediatrician (appointment wait time: six months!) so hell, you can get your kid fully evaluated beyond the vague oral-motor sensory problems and get a damn solid diagnosis, and hell hot damn in a blanket, you might actually sort-of maybe secretly hope that diagnosis is enough for your incredibly expensive insurance to pay for a few measly sessions of speech therapy. (And let's not even get into occupational therapy! Ho ho!)
Meanwhile, try to look at your child -- your smart, loving, wonderful but struggling child -- and not be whalloped with fear from both sides. Fear that your insurance will reject your claims...and fear that if the insurance DOESN't reject your claims, it will be because the diagnosis your child receives will indeed be something that scares you. Something that you don't quite feel capable of handling, or something that means other people -- other misinformed, ignorant people -- will forever look at your child differently, or hold him to lower expectations, or cast pitying glances at you and wonder what you did wrong, whether you vaccinated or had ultrasounds or used a microwave while you were pregant. The boogeyman. The new scarlet letter A.
You have any best friends dealing with that, Denis Leary? Because if you do, I'm wondering why they haven't gently pulled you aside and told you -- with love! -- to please fucking cram a sock in it already.