Autism's Many Meanings
A child's culture will affect how he's treated
In raising these children, they were going against the most basic expectations of the society; the typical 6-year-old is very much guided by his grandmothers. These mothers rose to the challenge and said, I don't think the extended family is the right way to do it. The parents were just amazing.
Even though attitudes in the United States have improved, it's still not easy raising an autistic child. You describe an incident in which a school principal dragged Isabel out of the cafeteria because she wasn't acting "normal."
You never know what kind of person you're going to encounter. Every time Isabel enters into a situation and you have people who want her to be exactly like everyone else, we know we'll get that phone call. You really do always have to fight for your kid.
Is it getting easier for Isabel?
The older she gets, the easier it is for her to monitor herself and to understand if she's reading social cues and doing something appropriate or inappropriate. One of the things I always emphasize is how much progress people with autism can make as they grow up. They can live independently and sometimes get married. People find ways to adapt. They get better.
Isabel doesn't feel excluded or marginalized. She's in a special-ed program, but it's within a regular high school. She plays cello in the orchestra; she was in the winter concert the other day. These little moments to me are victories. You learn to appreciate the small things.