Tuesday, April 9, 2013


Lately I have heard from some new parents (what I mean by that is really parents of kids more recently diagnosed) that they had felt like they wouldn’t be able to find other people on the web they could relate to because they didn’t agree with or want to hear doom and gloom and negativity.

I’ve also recently heard from some Autistic colleagues that they are sick and tired of being berated, silenced and otherwise treated with disrespect “by parents.”  I could relate to the feeling, but it’s that “by parents” thing that got me thinking.

This is when I remembered that I hadn’t yet written about my visit to Hirsch Academy in Decatur, Georgia.

Most people’s parents are not like the small handful of loudly vocal people who show up repeatedly to write unkind things to and about Autistic adults, and sometimes even their own children (I won’t get into that, because it’s really too triggering).

Because I am a person who prepares special ed teachers and doc students for a living, I meet a lot of people, and a lot of them are parents of kids, and a lot of the kids these parents have are kids with autism.  I get to know them over time, and see the wonderful work they do as pre-service teachers, and often keep in touch with what they are doing after they graduate.  These are good and loving people, dedicated to life-long learning.  This is my general background knowledge of other people’s parents.  This is hundreds or maybe by now a thousand-odd of people, not just a loud handful.

Cut to my experience at Hirsch, which really drove this home so much it brought tears to my eyes.  Shelley Carnes and Leslie Smith there who run the homey, inviting little school brought me, Landon Bryce and Brenda Rothman to come and speak for the inaugural session of their “Our Voices” series, which they put on in the city of Atlanta and opened to the public for all who are interested in Autistic and allied viewpoints.

Shelley and Leslie are parents, and a lot of the teachers were too.  Many of the parents came to see us at the school before the event, and so did the teachers.  They asked questions, which also helped us fine-tune what to talk about in the speaking portion.  They clearly cared about the answers and believed we were human beings worthy of respect and even honor.

During the large talk, picture a giant room full of parents: a giant room or a small auditorium.  Like a large church they numbered.  So it wasn’t a stadium, but the audience was plentiful enough that I started out calming myself down using theatrical preparation breathing.  And then this happened: This giant room full of over a hundred parents emanated so much open-mindedness, and—if this is not a word, it should be—open-heartedness that I felt perfectly comfortable telling them to feel free to ask me anything.

This is what parents are really like.  Parents of Hirsch Academy, you can ask me anything you want, whenever you like.  And I hope I can come see you real soon.  And I hope you come to TASH, which is in Chicago, where I live.  Much love.

So for everyone else who is having a hard time getting beyond the really super vocal handful? Hang in there, stick around; I have some wonderful people to introduce you to.  Parents like yourselves, the kind I’ve observed (from the honest and sensitive questions and comments) who read this particular blog.

Because check it out.  All those wonderful, loving, open people in Georgia?  That was just in Georgia.  And only in one part of Georgia.  It’s a big, wide world, full of love and compassion and sparkles on the water and dapples in the trees.



  1. Ibby it was an honor to meet you. You were as open-hearted as the rest of us in the room. Much love and respect

  2. one day too i will meet you ibby
    thank you for these words
    a good reminder that most people are good
    this i do know
    but i don't know
    why the bigness of the few bad
    feels overwhelming of the many good
    that is bad math
    but true
    loud bad squashes the spirit
    so april is the month
    to have a plan
    and act on the plan
    to avoid some of the loud bad
    in a variety of ways
    one new way
    is to remember all the many
    people of good
    thank you so much for the reminder
    that brings new stream of life

  3. Dear Ibby,

    I hope my Catherine grows up to be just like you - funny, smart, beautiful and loving - wait a minute - she already is! Thank you for reminding me!

    Erin McAlister (Hirsch Parent)

  4. Thank you so much! As a parent, so much of the negativity came from doctors and language specialists, and it hurt.

    I am so glad to know there are other parents and professionals who are accepting and positive. Thank you!

  5. Ibby, so glad to hear you were greeted with such open-mindedness and open-heartedness. It sounds like your visit to Hirsch Academy was a wonderful experience. <3

  6. Open heartedness, hyphenated or no, is definitely legitimate English. Also awesome to find, especially in lots of people in a big room.

    I work with rescue dogs a lot. Many of these dogs were just unlucky enough to have owners who should never have had an animal, but lucky enough to escape into rescue. That's a convoluted sentence, but I'm trying to make a parallel with parents of special needs kids. Some people should never be allowed to have kids, special needs or otherwise, because they just aren't capable. Just as with bad dog owners, I am not interested in correcting or improving them, I'm interested in getting the kids out of there.

    Thanks for all the good work and writing you are doing. Keep it up!

  7. Wow, now I am in a really good mood! I just came back to this page and found there are all these lovely sweet comments! Love love love to you all!!!!!!! xxxxooooo Love, Ib