Brendan Fraser opens up about his autistic son

Brendan Fraser spoke to Howard Stern on his SiriusXM radio show in support of his Oscar campaign and his movie, The Whale. He told Howard that at events, if he spots anyone on the autistic spectrum, he tries to make the space and time to spend with them in a way that makes them comfortable. What I didn’t know is that Brendan oldest son, Griffin, is autistic, which is why Brendan makes a point for meeting those folks on their terms. Brendan opened up to Howard about the shock of receiving Griffin’s diagnosis and how he wouldn’t change a thing about him.

Brendan Fraser is opening up about what it’s like being a parent of a child with autism.

Speaking about his experiences raising son Griffin, 20, during a recent sitdown with Howard Stern for his SiriusXM radio show, The Whale actor, 54, talked about making an effort to reach out to fans with autism at public events.

“There’s just people who are, for whatever their personal reasons are, really fulfilled or happy to make your acquaintance, if only for a few moments. And I find that really gratifying and affirming, and sometimes there are those who I can clock from across a convention room hall, who I can tell right away, ‘He’s on the spectrum,’ ” the actor shared.

“You know that there’s somebody who needs a little more love, a little more time because they’re autistic or they have Aspergers, and this is their world. This is where they belong,” he continues.

“No matter all of the noise surrounding the hysteria that goes into the whole celebrity bulls—, I always, always stop the train to have a moment with them.”

Fraser then recalled how he struggled to wrap his head around his son’s diagnosis when they first learned of it.

“When I found out my kid’s diagnosis at 22 or 24 months, I was crestfallen, to say the least. The first reaction that I had was, ‘I want to know how to fix this. What’s the cure? What does this mean?’ ” he said.
“You’re just hit with a baseball bat in the back of the side of the head. Like what? This isn’t the way it’s supposed to turn out,” he continued. “You blame yourself and you think, ‘my genealogy or ‘I smoked weed in college,’ you start blaming yourself over the reasons why.”

“Then you learn quickly that, I wouldn’t have any other way,” Fraser noted. “This kid has the most joy onboard of anyone I know, and he happens to be related to me as my son. I want to know what he thinks is so gut-bustingly funny all day long, in a genuine way, he’s cracking himself up. He loves to go for a ride in the car. It doesn’t matter where you’re taking him.”

Asked if Griffin’s diagnosis contributed to marital issues between him and ex-wife Afton Smith — with whom he also shares sons Leland, 16, and Holden, 18 — Fraser explained, “I paid more attention to my professional life than my personal one. That’s just me.”

“But with Griffin, all bets are off. Who cares what our problems are with each other? That doesn’t matter,” he pointed out. “It’s under a white flag, and we do anything and everything in support of this boy’s needs and his brother’s. That’s what I was able to commit to in the most meaningful way.

[From Yahoo!]

I know a few parents who reacted much like Brendan did when they received the autistic diagnosis. There was a point when it was portrayed as such a burden, as well. Schools and society have been more educated and people are more accepting, so hopefully it’s not received as dire now. I know it’s a challenge, but as Brendan said, there’s so much beauty that’s not emphasized in the lives of those on the spectrum. Brendan also talked a little about the lack of information he got from the medical community when Griffin was diagnosed. My friend’s son is Griffin’s age and diagnosed around the same time. I remember her trying to get information. Like Brendan said in his interview, there was limited knowledge on the subject. Years later though, there was so much more information out there and my friend’s kid was in the right therapy, the right school, the right recreational activities. It made a world of difference. And it makes a world of difference that people like Brendan translate their experiences into meaningful moments for people on the spectrum when he’s around them. Can you imagine what that must mean to them? I love this guy.

It is so gross that Howard asked Brendan if Griffin broke up his marriage on a radio show. Brendan gave a beautiful answer to an egregious question, though: “That’s just me.” Gotta love a person who takes responsibility. Brendan also took responsibility in his fight against the Golden Globes. When Howard asked if he felt other actors should have joined him in boycotting, Brendan said no, it was his fight, so he’ll fight it. And then he called the award a “hood ornament” *snerk*

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These are Brendan’s younger sons, Leland and Holden
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Photo credit:Getty Images for AARP

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72 Responses to “Brendan Fraser opens up about his autistic son”

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  1. Beana says:

    My son is autistic. I love that he’s talking about it this way. I, too, went through the “how do we fix this” stage, only to educate myself and realize my son is amazing in his totality. Autism has always been a part of the neurodiversity of humanity and it has its place among us. But the world isn’t built for autistic people, which is why we also need help and treatment for the pieces that are disabling, to ensure everyone has the ability to experience joy and prosperity.

    One small comment – as I humbly listen to the Autistic community, the differences between saying “autistic” vs. “with autism” are significant. Many feel that “with autism” implies that their autistic traits/behaviors are separable from their core being and undesirable, while “autistic” represents that these traits are who they are, not something to diminish. I’m never going to say it as eloquently as some of the self-advocates who speak on the subject but wanted to advocate for that language focus here.

    • Kokiri says:

      Thank you.

      I am autistic. Diagnosed late late late in life, after my son was. It’s a story similar to many.
      I don’t “have” autism, like I might have a cold. I am just me.
      Also, I regret he used Asperger’s. Its way past time people stopped using that word.

      As for the rest of it, I can’t even begin to explain how it feels to know my son is in for a long life of trauma & misunderstandings.

      & for the love of everything, everyone, please don’t say “I feel that way about my kids future too!” because it is NOT the same thing at all.

      ETA: it would go a long way if the headline was changed to “autistic son/child” instead of “with autism”.

      • Beana says:

        Kokiri, I share your fears about our kids. And to anyone who would say it’s a “normal” fear, I’d encourage them to read the chapter in Neurotribes that talks about Nazi Germany and how it systematically killed those children on the spectrum, or the later chapters on early ABA and how practitioners harmed generations of parents and kids with abusive – and inaccurate – approaches. I can’t imagine raising my son even a generation ago. I think it’s so, so important for all of us to listen when Autistic people share – if they say it’s harmful, it’s harmful. If they say we need to change for them to be seen, we gotta change.

      • VoominVava says:

        “& for the love of everything, everyone, please don’t say “I feel that way about my kids future too!” because it is NOT the same thing at all.”

        THANK YOU!! My 11 year old son is an autist and an extreme flight risk and a head banger. I cannot STAND when other people say oh I worry about my kid too. No. You don’t have to worry constantly about your child running into traffic or out of his school or banging his head on the wall so hard he makes holes all throughout your house. My mom always compares dealing with me as a child (I was somewhat hysterical about needles or blood or being scared) with my son and it’s NOTHING alike. sigh. I have my son in a harness and holding my hand if he’s not in our house, and we have 5 door locks and 2 GPS’s on him. Not to mention he’s the size of a small man already at 11. Don’t take this all wrong, he’s beautiful and funny and loving and has a great sense of humour and the most beautiful singing voice I’ve ever heard .. he is his own person, he is just also his own worst enemy at times. As the parent, you have to be on constant alert.

      • NeoCleo says:

        Just getting in line regarding the “late in life” diagnosis: I didn’t find out until I was 43 that I was ADD (inattentive). For years I tried, in terror, to hide my learning disability, not understanding why I had such trouble and it was a relief to at least understand myself better. What a ride it’s been!!

    • Ocho says:

      Thank you Beana for your advice on the correct wording — and to other commenters below about discontinuing the term “Aspergers” — as I was unaware. I want to be considerate to others. Words can mean so much and take no effort on my part.

    • MrsBanjo says:

      Thank you. I’m autistic and so are my children. It’s part of who we are, not something we have, and that distinction is important.

      Like Kokiri I’m also disappointed to hear the term “Aspergers” used by Fraser, though I do understand that a lot of people still don’t understand why it’s problematic. Hans Asperger was a Nazi who stole research on Autism from a Jewish woman, altered it to suit his eugenics goals and then promoted it to the Nazis.

      I do like what he says about realising how wrong it is to want a cure. There is no cure and organisations like Aut*ism Speaks are out there not to actually help us, but to make money promoting dangerous info about cures and centering the neurotypical parents over the autistic individuals. It’s dangerous and dehumanising.

      • NeoCleo says:

        Thank you for educating me further on this issue. I had no idea there was a Nazi connection to Asbergers.

    • Hecate says:

      Done. Thank you for the correction.

    • Beana says:

      Celebitches/Admins/Mods, here is the case for changing the language, more eloquently stated:

      “But let’s think about what we are doing when we use these terms. When we say ‘person with autism,’ we say that it is unfortunate and an accident that a person is Autistic. We affirm that the person has value and worth, and that autism is entirely separate from what gives him or her value and worth. In fact, we are saying that autism is detrimental to value and worth as a person, which is why we separate the condition with the word ‘with’ or ‘has.’ Ultimately, what we are saying when we say ‘person with autism’ is that the person would be better off if not Autistic, and that it would have been better if he or she had been born typical. We suppress the individual’s identity as an Autistic person because we are saying that autism is something inherently bad like a disease.

      Yet, when we say ‘Autistic person,’ we recognize, affirm, and validate an individual’s identity as an Autistic person. We recognize the value and worth of that individual as an Autistic person — that being Autistic is not a condition absolutely irreconcilable with regarding people as inherently valuable and worth something. We affirm the individual’s potential to grow and mature, to overcome challenges and disability, and to live a meaningful life as an Autistic. Ultimately, we are accepting that the individual is different from non-Autistic people–and that that’s not a tragedy, and we are showing that we are not afraid or ashamed to recognize that difference.”

    • RP says:

      Agreed, mom if autistic daughter. I take the phrasing seriously, and I hate the phrase “(person’s name) HAS autism”. It’s not chicken pox, it’s not an affliction or illness, it’s part of your overall composition. We don’t say, “(person’s name) suffers from left-handedness.” We just say, they’re left-handed.

    • JustBrowsing says:

      Thank you for educating us on more appropriate terminology and explaining nuances which we might not otherwise have realized. As an adoptive parent, I also struggle with undesirable terms which seem to persist Case in point: “Billy is adopted,” – present tense implying a lifelong/ongoing condition. NO! “Billy WAS adopted and now he IS our son.”

    • Blubb says:

      Interesting how use of words change fairly quickly! I used to work with kids with special needs about 10 years ago and we specifically were instructed to use “person with xyz”. The reason was that it was perceived as ledd judgemental/categorizing and that people should not be defined by the syndrome/symptons/special needs they have, that they were just people who happen to have a special need, and not a personified “disability” .

      • dj says:

        Agreed with Blubb I was trained the same way use the person with …. so as to not label the person. Times and language change quickly. I am always grateful to learn the new and evolving things from so many great people here.

  2. Abby says:

    This makes me love Brendan even more. What a gross question from Howard though!!

    My son is 9 and was diagnosed with autism in 2020. Finding information that doesn’t act like autism is a sad burden parents must shoulder was surprisingly hard. I asked many people, dug into lots of websites, and eventually found some autistic-led Facebook groups with resources for me to learn. It shouldn’t be so hard. But there’s a lot of harmful advice and organizations out there connected to autism.

    Just getting my son evaluated was challenging. He was recommended by his preschool teacher and we spent the summer before kindergarten trying to get him evaluated. Finally found a place and it would have been $2500 just for the test, not covered by insurance.

    By the grace of God, the public school he goes to had the districts diagnostic team able to evaluate him through school, so he was diagnosed and was able to receive services. It just took a while because of Covid. We got pushback from family (MIL) because she didn’t want him labeled, didn’t think he was autistic, etc. But she eventually came around and is now fully supportive.

    My son’s amazing brain is wired differently, and I wouldn’t change a thing. I wish the world was built for him, and that presents a lot of challenges (now and ahead). I hope the stigma of autism can be dispelled. Maybe with people like Brendan talking about autism this way it will help. I appreciate Brendan sharing his perspective.

    • Christine says:

      This makes me love him even more too.

      My friend’s daughter is autistic, and at one point in time she had business cards made to hand out to people in public who stopped to gawk at her daughter’s most challenging moments, that basically said, “it’s autism, please don’t stare” . I thought they should say, “She’s autistic, what is your excuse?”, but I suppose that is not remotely helpful to changing attitudes toward autism. My friend is a lot nicer than I am.

      She’s a teenager now, and very high functioning, but for a lot of years, it was so difficult and scary for my friend and her husband, and the worries they had for her future did not in any way resemble the worries I have for my son. Now, it’s very much the same, but it definitely was not when she was little.

    • Fabiola says:

      My son is autistic and every day is challenging. This world is no made for them. I’m glad that we are making progress in making places more accessible to him. I’m grateful to everyone that has shown him kindness and compassion. We have to tie all our doors to make sure he doesn’t run off. I’m worried about him constantly.

  3. Flowerlake says:

    He has a beautiful heart.

    It looks like more and more people are realizing that people with autism don’t have a ‘defect’, but complement regular folks by often having different skills and might do things just differently, but in other ways that contribute as well.

    Also, that autism is a large spectrum and to not question when someone has a diagnosis by saying things like: “but you seem normal, I don’t think you have it” just because someone isn’t fitting their stereotypical idea of autism. (Happens to girls a lot, as they tend to be more social and often fly/flew under the radar as they did not meet the criteria that were based on research primarily focused on boys).

    Thanks, Hecate, for this article.

  4. Yup, Me says:

    I have a cousin the same age as Brendan’s oldest son and he was diagnosed (after years of his mother trying to figure out what was going on). My cousin’s diagnosis is “Aspergers” but I’ve been hearing from Autistic friends who are advocates that the guy that diagnosis is named after was abusive and traumatizing to the people he studied and the term should not be used. It also implies that one is a different kind of autistic when Autism is a spectrum with many characteristics and we (the neurotypical folks and world at large) should be learning to understand it and autistic people as such.

  5. TOM says:

    My brother is a profoundly autistic man in his late 60s. He is non-verbal.

    When he was born, the doctors thought autism was caused by a cold and distant mother. That is what our mother had to hear for years. She never really got over that.

    My brother grew up in the bad old days when kids like him did not go to school. There was no respite care, no speech or family therapy. There was nothing unless you were wealthy.

    Our parents were among those who fought for public services and programs. They helped establish a group home and daycare program for autistic adults. They sued the state over the use of Thorazine as a default drug for autistic people.

    They did a lot more for autistic adults. They weren’t saints but parents. All the fighting and activism absolutely shortened their lives.

    • D says:

      I’m so grateful to the parents who had to fight tooth and nail for supports for their children back when they were told it was hopeless and to put the child/adult in an institution.

      My 9 year old daughter is autistic, what people call “high functioning” and it took a while to get her the correct diagnosis because she didn’t tick all the boxes of what is perceived to be autism. Thanks to your parents generation and beyond we now how so many services through the public schools and the children who may have fallen through the cracks are being spotted, assessed and getting the therapies they need.

    • VoominVava says:

      Wow, I am so sad for your Mom to have to hear that it was essentially her fault all those years.. but how wonderful that they pushed past that and advocated for autistic adults. Thanks for sharing.

      • Fabiola says:

        Unfortunately we still get that as moms. What did you do to cause your child to be autistic? Did you drop him on his head, drink alcohol, not talk enough? People still want to blame us.

    • Christine says:

      Yes, thank you so much for sharing. Wasn’t Temple Grandin’s mom told the same thing? It’s horrifying, I can’t believe that was the prevailing wisdom, at the time.

  6. Susan says:

    Brendan Fraser is what the world needs right now in a celebrity. He has such heart and soul. I always kind of sensed a deeper heart/personality in there (when he was a heartthrob in cheesy movies) and this just reiterates that fact.

    Also—I love the name Griffin! And Leland and Holden. What great boy names?!

  7. Cat says:

    My daughter has autism, she was diagnosed 16 months ago at 4 and a half, although we had been wondering what was going on with her for some time. She’s doiing really well, receiving therapies that give her skills that help her a lot. She is bright, and funny, and sweet, and a lovely kid all around. But the first few months of the diagnosis were ROUGH on the entire family and they are hard on a marriage as well. There’s an adjustment period and although my husband and I are doing all we can for our daughter (and our toddler as well), it’s super hard sometimes for parents. Isolating and frustrating and just plain shitty. There’s no shame in saying that out loud.

    • D says:

      Yes, those first few months (and years) are hard and I don’t like when people judge parents for their initial reactions to diagnosis. We still think of the old idea of autism and it is terrifying. My family is now several years in to diagnosis and treatment for my daughter and there are so many therapies and programs that can help, which is amazing to see and experience. My daughter went from not being able to hold a pencil at 3 to being a prolific artist by 6. At 9 she is still working on self regulation in stressful moments but it gets better and better as time goes on. It can be one step forward 3 steps back, but there forward momentum is there. You just have to keep on keeping on, even though it can be exhausting and isolating.

      • Betsy says:

        Ugghhhh where are you people finding these wonderful services and support stuff? One of my kids is in the process of diagnosis. S/he has a school diagnosis but we wanted more info and so are also paying for a private diagnosis. I myself am not neurotypical and I find research incredibly difficult.

        Sorry to reply to yours of all people’s posts as so many people have said great things, but specifically the bit about your daughter’s progress regarding fine motor skills; that’s one of the things that is really killing my child’s confidence. I’m assuming the neuropsych will have suggestions but oh my heart aches…

      • D says:

        Betsy, we had what’s called Birth to 3 come out and evaluate her but she didn’t qualify. Once she turned 3 her traditional preschool recommended an evaluation by our town/school district which has a special education preschool. She qualified for that and got PT, OT and speech therapy there and was in a class based on helping with social skills. Now that she is in elementary school her services continue and she is reevaluated every 3 years to make sure she is getting what she needs.

        We also found a private OT to supplement, which helped a lot. Our pediatrician had great recommendations. That can get very pricey so I recommend working with your insurance to make sure you can get reimbursed or find an in-network provider. Unfortunately it’s about calling and asking lots of questions of different people and trying to find the right fit. Good luck!!!

      • Betsy says:

        Thanks, @D. We are well past the BIrth to 3 (and two of my children were evaluated for different things in similar programs, including the child now diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder). I am hoping that whatever my child’s more detailed diagnosis is that the neuropsych has some practical therapy recs to offer.

    • Beana says:

      Hugs, Cat. My son was diagnosed just before age 3 and we had several years of hard, until we all learned ways to help my son regulate his sensory experience. When your kid is so obviously suffering, it’s excruciating. And few people get it. And then there’s the visceral fear of how it will impact your kid, and the frantic desire to protect them. I am so happy to hear she is thriving better now – it’s a path I hope for my son as well. ♥️

    • Nick G says:

      My daughter is on the spectrum and you’re both right, my husband and I spent years utterly terrified and grief stricken. But this was over 20 years ago, and there is so much more understanding and support for families now.

      We did go through hell for many reasons. Everyone in the family suffers. A big turning point was when, in her early teens, she was able to be around other non neurotypical children and develop a sense of cameraderie and identity with them, that we as parents, no matter how supportive and affirming, could not totally give her. Also helping to care for little ones with disabilities helped her see her own behaviour in others, in a non judgmental, humorous way. And of course, always therapy, which has saved all our lives.

      Watching her grow up made me understand myself profoundly and realize that I was on the spectrum too. It explained a lot about my unhappy childhood.

      My daughter gave a TED-X talk in high school that really reached a lot of people and made her former bullies weep. She’s been invited to speak at other high schools, churches and a university here. She will forever be an activist. She is my pride and joy.

  8. one of the marys says:

    I have two friends with autistic children. What was most frustrating and burdensome for them was getting that information, help, resources, diagnosis etc Way more frustrating than anything going on at home.

    on a completely different topic I’d like to know what guide they used for their sons’ names, very romance novel masculine but they sound good and all coordinate. He and his spouse made beautiful children

  9. JanetDR says:

    I’m a preschool speech pathologist and want to say that if your pediatrician is saying to wait on testing, you should call your school district, who will test for you to get services started for a child who is close to 3 and they will provide services (Special Education, PT, OT, and Speech therapy). For services from birth to 3, you call the health department for the same services through Early Intervention. I know things vary from state to state, but that’s typical as far as I know. Also typical? Pediatricians wanting to wait and see. You do need a full developmental exam to get an actual diagnosis, but you don’t need that to start services.
    It is a wonderful thing to be involved in helping children and families through this process! It’s one of the reasons I have remained working in preschool even though it’s is not as lucrative, the changes you can help with are so rewarding! Look for therapists who have experience with sensory issues as meeting sensory needs is the key to everything else.

    • AB says:

      I didn’t see your comment before I wrote mine but yes, to all of this! Early Intervention is a great program.

      • Beana says:

        Early Intervention was like a gift from heaven! They (gently) got me to see my son clearly, got us on every testing waiting list in the state, and showed up in my home (and then on Zoom during the pandemic).

    • Busybody says:

      Janetdr, I’m also an SLP! I work at the other end of public school-based services (with high schoolers and 18-21 year old receiving “transition” services) and feel the same way: being able to work with kids and their families is great even though public employees are underpaid. Many folks don’t know that our public school system can provide special education services for people from birth to 21 years!

      I also want to thank the neurodivergent posters above who commented on Autistic vs with autism. It’s an important distinction and we should be listening to Autistics about how they want to describe themselves.

      • JanetDR says:

        A tip of my ASHA hat to you @Busybody!
        We do keep changing the way we say and write things! Undergrad was all about terminology, and the Grad school was more writing for the parent. Always use the child’s name! And then why can’t you use a pronoun? 😂
        I fully embraced the “child with” language but Temple Grandin made it quite clear why we shouldn’t use that with autistic people. Always changing and adapting as we go.
        My most recent take is that most of are on a spectrum of anxiety/depression/autism we just all present differently.

    • LisaN says:

      Thank you!!!

      as a parent with my only child on the spectrum, our pediatrician told us – I recognize when a child has issues, and your does not. we had so many issues with daycare and preschool, and ultimately ended up with a combination of therapy and a nuerologist, sine this was only the late 1990’s and no one would provide support at that time due to the age of our son (less than 5-6).

      at the time we received a diagnosis of ADHD – other health impaired. the issues did not respond to medication, and we spent about 10 years in a constant cycle of medications. endless. the school system we were in at the time wanted to put our son into a separate facility, specifically for mentally challenged, which we adamantly fought against, based on his testing results. at the time, I was devastated, spent so much time just trying to manage the constant issues from the school, while my husband went through the whole ‘not my child’ attitude.

      we ended up moving to a different region in the US, and during Middle school. a teacher spoke up, and requested testing by our school district. in the end, we were not dealing with ADHD, our son was on the spectrum – high functioning Aspergers. Once we understood the issue, and started to do research, it hit us like a lead brick.

      sadly, during the time that our sone was in preschool and elementary there was just not enough understanding of the disorder, and a lack of ability to diagnose in time to provide the therapies that can help a child navigate the complexities of our wo

      • JanetDR says:

        @Lisan, Our knowledge of effective treatment has changed so much since then and I wish I could go back in time and start over with every child I had! We failed a lot of children back in the day.
        The one thing I did right was to make my relationship to the child primary to therapy expectations because that naturally led to a basic understanding of sensory issues but I know so much more now and progress comes faster. I’m also much better at explaining what I am doing and why.
        There are lots of good videos on YouTube regarding sensory issues as well as unresolved primitive reflexes for anyone who is interested in exploring that (not necessarily a spectrum thing, but useful information for anyone).

  10. AB says:

    Wow I have been a Brendan fan since his Encino Man days lol. It’s nice to hear about his experience with his son, I had no idea. My 10 yr old daughter is autistic, diagnosed at 2. It has been a long road and we’re still going. Fortunately there’s so much more understanding and awareness today, so my kid is able to access the support she needs.

    My advice for any parents of littles is to utilize your state’s Early Intervention programs! They can be so helpful for any sort of developmental issues your kid might have, even if you just want peace of mind. My younger child is neurotypical but was evaluated through EI and ended up getting a year of free speech therapy.

  11. Karla says:

    As if we needed another reason to love Brendan…
    My son is also on the autism spectrum. He was diagnosed at 12 years old. We knew there was something special about him but it took us years to be evaluated.
    We would not want him to be any different but it is a struggle with the school and education. We live in Europe and in our country the schools and teachers are not really equipped to deal with anything „out of the ordinary“.
    Sending love and strength to all!

  12. buenavissta says:

    My elder child has autism, along with a myriad of other neuro atypicalities. It has not been an easy road but I am so proud of their ferocious tenacity and personality. It took years to get their condition defined and acknowledged and in the end, they did their own research and they were finally able to understand themselves, and gave the rest of us a big education. I would not have them any other way.

  13. Anneli says:

    Well, I’m the horrible mother curing my autistic son. Why? Because he is almost 6 years old and minimally verbal with apraxia of speech and he refuses speech therapy. He had stem cell therapy last year and started saying 2-word phrases, all kinds of sensory issues disappeared after the treatment as well even though that was not my goal. Currently, I’m saving up for a second round to get him fully verbal.

    • Beana says:

      Hi, Anneli. I want to, first, express my support for you as you care for your son. We both have sons with apraxia who have significant sensory struggles and I know firsthand how absolutely difficult that can be, for everyone. I don’t think anyone here would ever want to call you a “horrible mother” – in contrast, you seem to be spending a lot of time, money, and effort to help him.

      Our understanding of the genetic, neurodevelopmental, and possibly environmental contributors to what we call ASD is still so incomplete. There are also, likely, some disorders that present with ASD features but have other causes. And so, if you’re saying that stem cell therapy has helped your son, I am happy to hear it.

      Please just understand that all of the current evidence points to ASD being a naturally-occurring divergence in neurological functioning. It has always been with us, and neurodivergent people throughout history have benefitted humanity! What we also currently understand is that ASD is NOT something to cure.

      For the people in the back:
      Your kid is not autistic because you took Tylenol while pregnant.
      You cannot “cure” your kid with vitamins or magic elixirs or shock treatments.

      Also, LOTS of medical conditions co-occur with autism, and if your kiddo needs meds or vitamins or treatments, and they help, that’s wonderful!!

      I think we have to be careful with making that distinction. Otherwise we feed into the stigma that has been perpetuated for years upon years.

    • AB says:

      You’re not a horrible mother. I definitely understand where you’re coming from. If there was a cure I would probably want it for my daughter. She is an amazing kid but this world isn’t built for her and I would love to be able to make her life a little easier.

    • VoominVava says:

      You’re not a horrible mother at all! I’m sure you understand that there is no “cure” per se but you are doing whatever you can to help your child. Treatments come in all different forms. I have been judged for medicating my son, but it has been a huge change for us all and we tried doing therapy for years before we came to the decision to try medication. He is such a flight risk and was so impulsive that we had to do something. He couldn’t go to school because he was constantly trying to run. He got away from me one day on our front porch and I couldn’t catch him, I was so terrified, screaming for ANYONE to help me as I chased after him. Thankfully someone pulled over and chased him and he stopped because he didn’t know who they were. They managed to grab onto him and hold him for me. He was so close to the highway and has no idea about traffic safety (he just can’t comprehend it). So, medication has helped slow down the impulses.. even if he still is a flight risk, it’s a little less now. If I could take that part away completely, I would in a heartbeat. Hugs to you. I hope your treatments work for your child 🙂

    • D says:

      You are NOT a horrible parent, and anyone who has dealt with this knows that. You are using a therapy that helped your son and thank goodness for that! I’m so happy that you are having a positive result from what you are trying.

  14. smcollins says:

    As if I could possibly love him more but here I am. My 6-year-old daughter is non verbal autistic and I wouldn’t change a thing about her. Do I sometimes wish things were different just to make her life easier (and, let’s be honest, our life too)? Of course I do, but I also know she is who she’s supposed to be and she never fails to amaze us by being exactly that. She’s so bubbly and silly and loving with a fierce independent streak and her own unique way of communicating & doing things. She has her bad days where she’s feeling overwhelmed and lashes out (hitting, kicking, throwing things, spitting, pulling hair…) but those days are getting fewer & further between. She’s in kindergarten (after holding off a year for a myriad of reasons) with an IEP and is just thriving, she loves it. The part BF says about wanting to know what his son thinks is so funny, cracking himself up and loving to go for rides in the car really resonated with me, he could’ve been talking about my daughter. She’s so amazing and, like I said, I wouldn’t change a thing about her, even with the bad days that push us to the brink.

  15. frankly says:

    Parent of an autistic teen girl. I would change a thing. Things. I would make it easier for her to make and keep friends. I would get rid of all the physical and mental health comorbidities that can rear their heads once your kid hits teen years. Do I love the way her brain works, the way she analyzes films and makes art? Yes. Do I love that she’s finishing high school from home because social interaction gave her crippling anxiety to the point where she literally could not function? No. And that’s not going to be every parent’s experience, but while an autistic toddler who never slept and screamed her way through every therapy session was challenging, an autistic teenager will break your gd heart. Her mental health is part of who she is, and I love her for who she is. I know things will get better when she finds her place in the world among the right group of people, but until then there are lots of things I would change to make her life easier for her.

    I will add that when she was first diagnosed it was moderately to profoundly autistic – whatever terminology they were using XX years ago. With early intervention and support she attended regular public school, was in gifted programs and HS AP classes. Early intervention can really turn things around. Take lessons from therapy and do it whenever you can, 24/7, like it’s your job. Also, my older child attended Montessori and there were a lot of ideas there that were very helpful in creating environments and the whole child-led learning concept if anyone is looking for extra ideas – it worked for us.

    • VoominVava says:

      That’s why autism is a spectrum. There are so many aspects to it and no 2 are alike. I would also change a lot for my son. Don’t feel bad about that.. it’s because we love them so much and hate to see them struggle in whatever way they do.

  16. RP says:

    Mom of autistic kid here. What he said was perfect about the self-flagellation you do after your kid’s diagnosis. I do have to throw one additional point out there though: some of that self-blame is exacerbated by society.

    There were people who knew my kid’s diagnosis who were atrocious to us, but under the guise of their pseudo-best intentions. I had people say to me in a smugly with a self-satisfied grin, “it’s because you vaccinated.”, I had another contact me when she had twins asking if we spread out my kid’s vaccinations or not because, and I am quoting this verbatim, she “didn’t want her twins to get autism like mine did”. Then, there were loads of people who gaslit us to hell and back DOUBTING the diagnosis because my kid has some (some) high-functioning capabilities. And not just friends and families, but even people in positions of power to decide on my kid’s IEP (which they took away) because some social worker thinks they know more than my kid’s ivy-league trained MD who’s specialized in neurodevelopmental pediatrics for 20 years misdiagnosed my kid. “They’re just gifted!” as they 86 all my kid’s OT and PT services.

    TL/DR: some people suck.

    • VoominVava says:

      Ugh I’m sorry about that. I lost a lot of friends after my son’s diagnosis. I had a good friend who was pregnant at the same time as me and we were excited our kids would be friends. But I remember a visit when they were around 5 or 6 and her husband was saying she wanted another baby but he didn’t want to risk the child being autistic. I played it cool but stopped visiting them after that. It hurt so much.

      • Andrea says:

        Heartbreaking that all the fear mongering from anti vaxxers and hate campaigns like Autism Speaks make parents feel that way when their kid gets an autism diagnosis. A lot of people are somewhere on the autism spectrum and it’s a normal part of the neurodiversity of humanity. Autistic people are people too and the cruelty of society’s attitudes about it is infuriating.

    • Abby says:

      This is breathtaking. I’m so sorry you have dealt with such cruel people.

      I have a couple people in my life who are anti-vax. One posts stuff from anti-vax people with the POV that vaccines cause autism. I wonder sometimes if this person thinks this about me and my autistic child. But nobody has said this to me directly. They’d better not.

    • Brandy Alexander says:

      I feel like we could be the same person. Between the wondering what I did wrong to the SO many people telling me my son has autism because we vaccinated him. Never mind that he wasn’t hitting his mile stones even before his first vaccine. Also, my son is very high functioning too, and we also get the doubts about his diagnosis. It’s called a spectrum for a reason! We have great therapies in place and he’s in a school that has a program for the neurodiverse to be in mainstream classes, but also give him the extra help he needs and he’s thriving.

  17. Nicegirl says:


  18. CruzMom says:

    These comments have been so enlightening, so thank you! My son has profound developmental disabilities, and advocates I’ve known have said to use “with disabilities” as opposed to disabled. I was told it was to emphasize the person first, rather than the diagnosis. But it makes complete sense to me why those things are inextricably linked. My son cannot tell me his preferences, so I really appreciate the input. On marriage, I wish the narrative that autism or disability breaks a marriage would go away already. Mine grew stronger, and if I had known that was possible, it would have made the first year much easier emotionally.

  19. Lula says:

    This is such a great story – I didn’t know that about Brendan Fraser.

    I have an autistic son. His story is one of the happier ones – I am a special ed teacher and when I first had a turn to be the class parent in his parent coop preschool at age 2, I knew instantly there were issues. Within two weeks he was a private pay student in an integrated preschool, within 2 months he was diagnosed and classified as a student with a disability. He received all the therapies from 3 on and now at 14, he functions well. Minus the managing homework assignments. He’s in a regular high school with regular/advanced classes but resource room with a special ed teacher to help him organize his responsibilities. And I monitor as well.

    The biggest tragedy as many have said is the “Wait and see,” approach. I own an education business that specializes in working with kids with special needs and I ALWAYS tell parents to take action as soon as they suspect an issue. Evaluations take a while, and the sooner one is started the better. But so many people don’t have someone saying that in their life and it costs so many kids.

    I truly enjoyed reading all the comments so far from fellow parents of autistic kids. It takes a village.

  20. nokitty says:

    As a parent with an autistic teenager, this thread has been both heartbreaking and encouraging. Thank you for sharing your experiences and making me feel less alone in my worries and struggles finding the right help for my child.