Mary Jane White
July 12, 1994
Alone with my three-year-old son, I drive the hour home along the Mississippi River from The Gundersen Clinic directly to our small-town library to look up the word that produces alarm: autism.
In the card catalog, there is a single book: Negotiating the Special Education Maze, A Guidebook for Parents–now a twenty-five-year-old much revised classic–it lists autism as a disability, a condition requiring special education covered by the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act.
Turning to the glossary first, I learn autism is worse than I thought.
The mother-of-all-learning-disabilities doesn’t touch it.
I begin to feel I may have made a huge mistake–having this child as I did.
Out of wedlock. With a man already married.
I fear autism might be the punishment—inflicted on my son: a no-life, long life. And my life from now on will be life-long caretaker. Another no-life, long life.
I have no courage for this.
I am not constituted with the patience to do this.