We’re Facing Autism’s Challenges the Way Our Favorite Team Faces March Madness

Last week I was challenged to answer this question: “If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it?”

My first thoughts?

  • “Expletive you.” (“You,” being as a personified version of autism).
  • “Expletive off.”

Let’s be honest, though. I’m not the cursing kind. I don’t really care if others do – but it’s not my thing. So, then I thought about,

  • “I will not let you take my child.”
  • “You will not win.”

Let’s be honest, though.  There are days when autism does win and takes my child. Although these days seem fewer and far between, they still exist, and the memory is not too distant.

It seems obvious to use competition metaphors in March. I’ve always loved March Madness. Even if I don’t watch basketball the rest of the year – March is awesome. Stories like my beloved University of Northern Iowa Panthers (my Alma Mater and current workplace) are inspiring. The year was 2010. They were an underdog — a nine-seed playing Kansas, a one-seed. The score was 63 to 62. UNI had the lead with the ball and 37.1 seconds left.

What a player should do in that situation is run down the clock, attempt to draw foul and make their free throws. Not Ali Farokhmanesh. He caught a pass, was outside of the three-point line, and took the shot. The shot went in and made it a two-possession game, thereby all but sealing the win. Watch:

The shot defied all logic.

My son, Tucker, defies logic.

My husband, a sporty spice dude, came home recently and was excited about a fellow coach’s motivational speech. The coach had a tattoo that read, “WE.” Not we as in you and me. WE as in Win Every day.

That’s what I would tell autism, the divine madness that is our life.

I will Win Every day.

Cancel that.

image (21) No competition is won by an ‘I’ – even in individual sports there are a team of people behind the competitor. Our team? Our we?  Teachers, cousins, coaches, friends, family… everyone.

We’re underdogs in this battle, no doubt about it. But I know that we will Win Every day

So, here is the official letter I would write to autism, if autism was a person.

Dear Autism,

You cause him to be ultra-logical. That’s fine. We will find ways that he can teach us; we will find ways to teach him. 

You cause him to be bothered by loud, sudden or high-pitched sounds. That’s fine. We will not raise our voices.

You cause him to have difficulty making eye contact. That’s fine. We will be patient and remind him. We will find other ways to make sure he is listening.

You cause him to lose his words. That’s fine. We will be patient and wait. We will wait until he finds the words.

You cause him to not understand conversation rules. That’s fine. We will allow him to talk and then calmly remind him it’s someone else’s turn.

You cause him to cling to people he trusts. That’s fine. We will hold him as tight as he needs. 

You cause him to be fearful of stairs and walking on uneven surfaces. That’s fine. We will hold his hand. We will reassure him that we will be beside him every step of the way.

You cause him to bump into things, knock things over and appear clumsy. That’s fine. We have all kinds of Band-Aids and forgiveness for mistakes.

You cause him to have poor fine motor skills. That’s fine. We have amazing occupational therapists.

You cause him to have serious sensory issues when it comes to his clothes. That’s fine. We will turn his socks inside out and allow him to wear sweatpants wherever he goes.

You may stand in the way of processing emotions. That’s fine. We will remain calm in the face of his reaction.

We will Win Every day. Period.

Then I will celebrate those wins. No matter how small.

So bring it on because we’re used to defying logic.

We’re the underdog.

The year was 2010, Tucker was in second grade. Ali Farokhmanesh made the shot. Later that year Tucker received this award.

photo-9 (1)

He will never give up. We will never give up. We will Win Every day.


Team Tuck

For all of March, The Mighty is asking its readers the following: If you could write a letter to the disability or disease you (or a loved one) face, what would you say to it? If you’d like to participate, please send a blog post to [email protected] Please  include a photo for the piece, a photo of yourself and 1-2 sentence bio.

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