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Yesterday Parent Dish posted the an article about Angie Dickinson’s daughter having been misdiagnosed by the psychiatric community at a time when Asperger’s was not a recognized diagnosis. The story was heart breaking as Ms. Dickinson was blamed for her daughter’s behaviors, and due to lack of understanding she received little to no support while raising her daughter.
I wish I could say things have changed drastically, but mother’s still have to fight for their daughters. At a time when Autism has gotten so much media attention, girls with Asperger’s are still frequently misdiagnosed and they are still misunderstood by their peers and families. I firmly believe that with understanding, tolerance and getting the correct type of support for these girls and their families, they can live fulfilling lives and make wonderful contributions to our society. I know someone on the spectrum who is truly amazing and who I love dearly. She inspired me to write the novel.
I also know that with understanding and support, the temper tantrums so many report as symptoms of Asperger’s can be avoided. There are also so many wonderful qualities of Asperger’s that are rarely reported. I cried when I read about how Ms. Dickinson’s daughter composed music at an early age, and yet her father did not see the talent she inherited from him. Her family instead saw her differences including her reactions to loud noises. Would our society destroy the great classical composers and artist if they lived today and what about the great inventors? I hope we wouldn’t but at times I wonder. Let’s protect our children so they can accomplish great things.
Below is an excerpt from Delightfully Different. Several people wrote books about kids on the Autism Spectrum having spiritual gifts, and they do seem to know things well beyond what their age and “limitations” would allow. Some parents believe that their children chose them which is why I chose to have Mia start out as a spirit watching her mother from heaven. This also allowed family history to be included in her story which I felt was important, as girls are frequently not diagnosed until they are older because their symptoms are more subtle like Mia’s.
I was with Mom before I was born. I watched her from heaven for years waiting for her to have a child so I could be born.
I first learned about Mom when she was only twelve years old. She had many losses in her life that year, including her Grandma Laura. When Great-Grandma Laura died, she and I became friends. She told me how Francesca was such a sweet girl that she hated to leave her. She said she knew that Francesca was special the day she met her as a newborn baby. The two of them had a special bond. Great-Grandma Laura learned I would get to choose my mother. She begged me to observe Francesca for a time to decide if she should be my mother.
So unbeknownst to my future mother, I studied her from heaven. Great-Grandma was right; she was special. She had flyaway, silky, copper-colored hair and beautiful green eyes that lit up when she smiled. I observed how much she loved all of her family and her pets. …
I did want to be her daughter.
From 1963 Speech of Martin Luther King, Jr.
I started writing Delightfully Different to teach tolerance of differences, yet at the time I was angry not forgiving. A group of mean girls wounded someone whom I love dearly. The books for middle school girls were about being mean to be popular, and the other mothers were reading Queen Bees and Wannabes. I learned some even were okay with their daughter acting like the queen bee. I don’t believe that was what the author of the book intended still that is what happened.
I decided that I had to change this somehow. I started by educating the school as to how things affected my loved one and how they could help. They did help, but I also realized the root of the problem was not the school. The root of the problem was lack of understanding of differences, and that meanness is not okay. I decided I had to do something which is how the book was born.
A good friend saw how angry I was and suggested that I try writing from a place of love not anger, and she was totally right to suggest this. She also advised me that even if I never sold the book that writing would be therapeutic, and again she was right. Still I refused to stop there, as from day one I kept telling people about my idea, and that I was going to write a book to teach tolerance in our schools.
Another friend told me that if I was serious, that I needed to get the book on Oprah, because some schools chose their required reading books from Oprah’s book club. I did my research and learned that at least some of the books used are on Oprah’s list; therefore, my ultimate goal for this book is to somehow get it be to be one of the books in Oprah’s book club. I know the kids who need to read it most will then read it, hence I e-mailed Oprah yesterday through her magazine web site. Now we wait and I ask all of you to pray that she somehow sees the e-mail and agrees to help.
D. S. Walker
How do we forgive those who hurt our loved ones? It certainly isn’t easy. I am fortunate in that I had just finished reading Immaculee Ilibagiza’s book Left to Tell at the time I learned about the bullies who hurt my child otherwise I might have reacted the same way as the dad in Florida who stormed the bus. I also got to hear Immaculee in person and meet her face to face during this time. She is a truly wonderful person and she inspired me to learn to forgive the bullies.
Still for me forgiveness is a work in progress especially when I hear about other kids being hurt by bullies. For those who don’t know Immaculee’s story, she survived the slaughter in Rwanda in 1994. She and one of her brothers, who was out of the country, are the only survivors from her family. While in hiding she overheard the murders of her younger brother describing his death as they called for her so they could kill her too. Yet, she forgave them as she realized that remaining angry would hurt her. When I met her, what struck me the most is how serene she is and the fact that she is clear that forgiveness does not mean forgetting.
I hope in some small measure my book will inspire someone to learn to forgive without forgetting and maybe they’ll inspire someone else to do the same. Let’s all really work at passing this message on to others. Thanks again for listening to me as I blog.
D. S. Walker