Morgan is 21 years old. She is a young adult on the autism spectrum. It took years for us to build relationships with our pediatric providers. Now, as we transition to this new world of adult care, we are finding that there is a severe lack of access to physicians/specialists who are trained to treat patients on the autism spectrum. We think we have finally found a provider who is ready to build a relationship with us, helping us build new bridges to meet her adult needs. I am sharing one very unexpected experience we had, as we began our search last year, in hopes of seeing positive change and additional training for more adult providers.
After preparing, and filling out intake forms months ahead at a specialist’s office to have Morgan’s records forwarded, I returned with her for her first appointment. We walked into his office. I tried to introduce Morgan. The doctor spoke all around her, never addressed her. He had not seen her past records. He said they didn’t really matter. (Later, I found out the request I filled out for records had never been sent out from his office). When I attempted to give him a brief history of her diagnoses, and tell him a little about her, he said, and I quote, “It’s just autism. They all rock like that.” I was floored! He glanced over at Morgan, not seeing her at all. With no knowledge of her, and a very apparent lack of knowledge of autism, he had made a singular summation of her.
In the book, Fully Alive, Timothy Shriver referred to this as “singularity”. I’m paraphrasing here; When the identity of a person, or group of people, is narrowed down to one label, it diminishes them to an object. It separates us. We no longer see the things we have in common and we loose our empathy. Simon Baron-Cohen defines empathy as “Our ability to identify what someone else is thinking and feeling and to respond to their thoughts and feelings with an appropriate emotion.” Now I understand that this doctor saw Morgan as an object, not a person.
Yes, Morgan has autism. Someone once said, “When you’ve seen one person with autism, you’ve seen ONE person with autism.” And THAT is just ONE part of her identity. She is a young woman. She’s a daughter, a granddaughter, a sister, an opinionated, remarkable, creative person. A person, who needs to have access to competent medical care.
Until Next Time,
Know The Hope!
Tammy and Morgan Vice