This weekend, I read a book called Following Ezra. A man discovers that his middle son has autism, and rather than grieve for the son he might've had, he decides to patiently follow and learn about the extraordinary son that he does have.
I read Andrew Solomon's Far From The Tree earlier this summer, which had ten chapters on kids who had a "horizontal identity" different from their parents' "vertical identity"--transgender kids, dwarves, prodigies, and autistics. It made having an autistic child sound like a living hell, which made Fields-Meyer's book even more unusual.
It also made me yearn, deeply, for the consolations of religion.
I know it's hard for anyone who didn't grow up in a church to imagine, especially one like Roman Catholicism. I appreciate it more, with years of perspective, than I did at the time when we were going to church together, as a family, on Sundays.
I wonder if the reason that the Fields-Meyers found the strength to deal with Ezra's autism as they did was because Fields-Meyer's wife is a rabbi. They leaned on their family and their faith, and the synagogue provided a supportive community that knew their son for his whole life.
Also, nearly every religion I know has a ritual for making the passage into adulthood. When Ezra succeeds in taking his bar mitzvah, he becomes a man. It's a benchmark that most people who don't grow up in a church don't have. At no point in their lives does their community embrace them and say, "You're grown up now, we trust you" and so a lot of them, pobrecitos, seem to remain kids for their entire lives.