Our son is affected by Asperger's Syndrome, a type of high functioning autism, that is very similar to Tourette's. Although very smart, he often acts in a very inappropriate manner. Like the Steinbergs, we have had trouble with school, sports, peers, Scouts, and more.
Our path has not been as long and difficult at the Steinbergs, but we could easily end up in a similar place if not for the support of our friends and exhaustive efforts with doctors and therapists. In the last week two neighbors contacted me to share that they had listened to a program on Asperger's Syndrome on NPR and told me how I could get a transcript. I am grateful they made the effort to learn more and reach out to us in this way.
The Steinbergs were very courageous to share their story with their community in this manner. I thought it was extremely well written, with great insight and wisdom. We need to remind ourselves that we cannot make assumptions about other families and their struggles. We need to give each other the benefit of the doubt, educate ourselves, and encourage those families with support and understanding.
As parents, we need to communicate this to our children as well. Our entire lives are strongly influenced by our friends and the support they give us. Children can be cruel and intolerant or wonderfully kind and supportive. We need to set an example for our children and practice what we preach. We need to teach our children how to understand and accept the differences in people.
Our family is acquainted with the Steinbergs, as they were in our Cub Scout Pack. We found them to be kind, intelligent, and considerate parents, who have the same hopes and dreams for their children as do the rest of us. We are so very saddened to hear that one Boy Scout Troop actually refused to permit their son to join their troop.
Thank you to the Steinbergs for giving this community a wakeup call. I do not believe most people are intentionally cruel, but maybe some of us need to educate ourselves about the challenges our friends and neighbors face. The next step would be to model for our children the acceptance of other peoples' differences. Then, we might truly have the right to call this community "family oriented."