The New Normal
James Durban, while being interviewed on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, said something that, to me, was profound. He said, “Different is the new normal.”
For all those who do not know James Durban, here’s a quick bio. James Durban was on the 2010/2011 season of American Idol. He wowed everyone with his vocal range, control, creativity, guts, and loyalty. He made it to fourth place before being voted off, and has released a record since. He is afflicted by Tourette’s syndrome and Aspergers.
When you have two children with autism, seeing anyone rise through pop culture with such challenges is a sigh of relief. It’s a beacon of hope. It’s the sudden dawning of, “Wow, maybe my kid isn’t destined to special workshops and constant supervision. Maybe, just maybe, my kid can be exactly that – a greatness among the normals.”
Or maybe, just plain normal. Because, let’s face it, different really is the new normal. “Different” is ADHD, bi-polar, hearing or vision impaired, FAS, FNS (Fetal Narcotic Syndrome) – seriously, I cannot make an actual list. It’s also talented, gifted, and motivated. It’s whatever sets you apart as unique, or anything that keeps the human race varied.
My experience is focused on autism, and therefore this blog will be, too. However, autism is not my life. It is not my children’s lives. It is a part of our lives, but we are more than a diagnosis. Shayla, my daughter is 13. She has likes, dislikes, and hormones. She has friends, people who like her for who she is, who cut her breaks because she has the diagnosis, who get her, who don’t call her on the phone but will chat with her on Facebook. Dimitri, my son, is 8. He’s energetic, sociable, pretty good at math, sucks at reading and spelling. He has lots of friends at school, and one best friend who lives next door.
The autism keeps us different. The kids share a social worker, behaviour consultant, and behaviour interventionists (BI’s) as part of our home team. At school, they have Special Education Assistants (SEA’s), and Individualized Education Programs (IEP’s). We have meltdowns and successes. We have big meetings and mini-meetings. We have records and charts and Lord knows what else.
In 2002 when Shayla was diagnosed, the occurrence of autism in the population was 1 in every 500 births. In 2007 with Dimitri, the number rose to 1 in every 150. Now it’s up to 1 in every 88. So we are absolutely not alone.
But we are different.