A belated apology

Thirteen years ago, my big brother and his wife were expecting a baby.

One day, I made a careless comment to them and I have regretted it ever since.

I joked about how brainy the two of them were and I suggested that their child would probably be an idiot savant.

I meant it as a sort of compliment I guess, but it didn’t come out that way and as I type it now, it seems even worse.

Neither of them said much in response, but instinct told me I had offended them with my ill planned, poorly chosen words.

More than a decade has passed and now I am raising an autistic child.

I sort of think God signed me up for the ultimate in peer sensitivity training.

The term “idiot savant” has become offensive to me, but it spins around in my head because of that comment I made.

My son’s I.Q. is lower than average, but I don’t believe it accurately reflects his capacity for learning.

He’s a bright seven-year-old who attacks a page of math problems with ease.

He’s creative and resourceful and he plays actual songs on the giant outdoor xylophone at the local park.

The other kids mostly just swing the big mallet to bonk the bars with no rhythm whatsoever.

Is my son a savant?  I don’t know.  Probably not.  Time may tell us for sure.  He is very good at a lot of different stuff, but I don’t see a virtuoso in anything (yet).

Is my son an idiot?  No, absolutely not.  That, I can say with unwavering conviction, backed by healthy skepticism of “standardized” testing.

My son is a bright little boy with amazing potential, but he doesn’t do well on those tests.  (I don’t either for that matter.)

I don’t believe the term “idiot” is even widely used anymore, but there are dozens of other unpleasant terms used to describe kids like my son, kids our society doesn’t fully understand.

The fact of the matter is, we’re hellbent on labels and categories.  Our fear of the unknown is palpable and crippling, so we have devised a bunch of subjective measures to help sift us into little boxes.

I’m not sure where I’m going with this.

My nephew is an amazing, bright, intellectually gifted kid and he has none of the neurological challenges that face my own little boy.  I love them both with all my heart.

Maybe I just needed to say that today.  And I needed to tell my nephew’s parents that I’m sorry for my comment.  I really am.

I’ve been thinking about it for thirteen years and don’t know why I didn’t bring it up before.

I hope you both can forgive me.


5 thoughts on “A belated apology

  1. That was very touching to me. Your son sounds a lot like my boy.

    You mentioned that you sort of think that God might have signed you up for the ultimate in peer sensitivity training. That has crossed my mind regarding our situation too. But I feel that if God was in the business of teaching people lessons in sensativy by giving them children with special needs, then every single parent on this planet would have a child with special needs. Clearly that is not the case. How many people do we know who say “that’s so retarded!” or “He’s acting like a retard” when describing something they think is stupid. Most people, a time or two especially teenagers. I used to talk that way as a teenager and I am ashamed of it. Now when I hear such comments, it hits every nerve in my body. But I don’t get very mad, but I do get offended when I hear it. Don’t be hard on yourself. God gave your this wonderful child of yours Because He knew that you could raise this child. You are the person to do it. There are so many people who wouldn’t last a day in our shoes let alone a lifetime. Stay strong. You are a great person, I can tell. I am certain your brother and his wife would forgive you.

    On a side note standard I.Q. tests givin to autistic children is BOGUS! My son was giving one and scored low as well but it wasn’t because he couldn’t do it. The way its administered needs to be different. Here’s a website I came accross regarding this.

    best wishes

    Mandi http://mygreatvillage.com/

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