Letters to the Editor (2) - August 16 2006

La Moustache, autism and more

?I don’t know if you write just to see your words on paper or for the enlightenment of your readers. I also do not know how you justify a star rating. If a four-star rating converts to a warning such as, “Do not see this movie under any circumstances unless under the influence of mind-altering drugs,” then your review [of La Moustache] (“Close Shave,” Aug. 10) is accurate. If it is supposed to denote a movie worth seeing, perhaps you were under the influence of mind-altering drugs when you saw the movie.

This movie was a total waste of both time and money. It should never have been allowed to be seen by anyone. It went nowhere, and, in fact, the hero’s aimless back-and-forth ferry ride said everything about this piece of French trash. I will keep this review in mind when selecting other films based on your opinions. Good luck at your next job, asking: “Do you want fries with that?”
?— Hirsch Goldberg, Atlanta

?Just a comment about Alyssa’s wonderful article (cover story, “Alone in autism,” Aug. 10): Wow! What an interesting article. Obviously there has been, and still is, a lot of misinformation regarding autism. There is no definitive cause or treatment and, as you can see, talk of cures can bring both hope and anger.

One of the best ways to understand what we do know is to read articles like this. I certainly knew little about autism before my son was diagnosed six years ago. I still struggle to understand the disorder and, like some parents of typical children, may struggle to understand my child for the rest of my life. There is a lot of guilt and blame with raising children in general. When they have a disorder such as this, problems can often be magnified for all family members — sounds, lights, attention, emotions can be overwhelming when extreme.

Yes, it’s a disorder, but the average person doesn’t understand the difference between a disease and a disorder. My son’s rarely spoken revelations and his intelligence still astound me — even though I know mental retardation is not the same as non-verbalization; it’s one thing to know but still easy to confuse. I still hope for the possibility that he will someday be able to communicate his needs and feelings and become independent, although I know it doesn’t always happen and isn’t always a sign of mental ability.

When my son was four, I would describe him as high-functioning. Now I would describe him as very low. These labels are both incorrect and serve little purpose, but as one who still struggles to understand, I do find them helpful when trying to explain to others. I, too, feel that my son is “my responsibility,” but now that he has been in a group home for a year, I realize that I can still be the ultimate one to help him, even though I may not be his main caregiver. Sometimes parents aren’t the best teachers or therapists, and sometimes children are happier living an alternate lifestyle.

My son is happy to see us when we take him home on weekends and happy to be back when we return him to his group home. And the aggression and injuries that we used to deal with on a daily basis are rare and diminished, though still present. I don’t know about the “myth of violence.” Those of us who have become so familiar with aggression often wonder why there weren’t more articles about it when we were trying to understand. Of course, every autistic person isn’t violent, but when the aggression results in injury to others or self, it can be devastating. And, of course, communication problems can be frustrating, and frustration can lead to violence, but not always.

Like autism, there are no easy answers, and not all autistics share the same traits. The best approach to our problems seems to be unconditional love, since it leads to happier relationships. If my son is happier, then I am happier, and it will be easier for him to become an asset to society.
?— Marcella Harris, Hollister, Calif.