Monday, October 19, 2009


About two or three times a year, I leave Wooster and travel to academic conferences. I just returned from one last night. These trips - while usually fun and intellectually stimulating - have challenged me in two particular ways. First, until recently I've had difficulty knowing what to say about Martin to my colleagues. And second, again until recently, Martin never showed that he missed me when I was gone.

I'm not sure why, but I'm finding it a lot easier to talk about Martin's situation. I think I used to be afraid that revealing his autism to others would make them uncomfortable, or that my explanations would be confusing, or that they would feel sorry for either him or me. It's not easy to reveal that your kid has a disability, explain its details, and show that you're OK with it at a conference cocktail hour.

A few things have happened that have made this better for me. I've realized that if I can talk about Martin's autism comfortably, I have a much better chance of making others comfortable when they hear me mention it. I've also gotten better at offering short descriptions of Martin's particular case. Most important, I've figured out that talking honestly about my own life is an invitation to others to do the same. It's a form of resistance to a professional culture that works on us all, one that urges us to present our lives minus their ambiguities and difficulties.

It's also gotten easier for me to travel away from home because Martin has begun to show that he misses me when I'm gone. On Thursday, I told him I was heading for Indianapolis. He told me I should stay in Ohio. While I was gone, he told my husband repeatedly that it was time to go to Indiana. I'm sure I would figure out how to live if Martin showed less affection, but I have to admit that Martin's recent ability to express himself this way has meant a lot to me.

So, it's very good to be back.


  1. awe...welcome home Jen! I am glad he missed you...and I miss him! :-) Can't wait to see all of you at Thanksgiving! -Jeanine

  2. I'm wishing that there was a "like" button to click on.

  3. Your blog has been helpful to me. We've not gotten an official diagnosis yet, but in all probability, our daughter is on the autism scale. We've known that for years, but it's becoming more apparent as she gets older. Recently, we had a bad experience waiting in the airport line where someone loudly tried to diagnose our daughter as if to show off how much knowledge she knew about autism, Asperger's, etc. We hadn't been ready to talk about it with our daughter (especially with no official diagnosis), but there it was. I took comfort in going back to your blog entries. They were helpful to read to help refocus on what was important, i.e. helping our daughter while giving her room to be herself.

    I usually just lurk, but I wanted you to know that.