Friday, September 25, 2009

Jett Travolta

Off topic a bit. I'm sure there are hundreds, possibly thousands of people writing today on the fact that John Travolta only "admitted" yesterday that his son, Jett, was autistic.

Having a chronically ill child is not something you "admit." You deal, you cope, you seek medical (sometimes spiritual) advice, you nurture, you medicate if necessary, you care for, you love and cherish; but "admit"? Whether Jett's parents chose to share his medical issues with anyone else would have been a completely personal and thoughtfully made decision.

My son first started having seizures at age four months. Before he started on his current prescription at about age two, we never knew when he would seize. We were extremely careful about making sure he had his medication regularly. I remember taking my mother out to dinner one night and saying something like, "Oh, it's time for his epilepsy medicine." My usually supportive mother actually shushed me! To avoid friction in the future, I just stopped using the "E" word.

There are similarities between my son's issues and those of Jett Travolta: learning disabilities on the autism spectrum and a seizure disorder. But the disparities between the two are more striking, and give evidence of just how far it is from end-to-end on that continuum. My son is highly-functioning, successful in academics, has always been fully integrated into his classroom; he's able to plays sports; he's loving and often empathetic. His seizures have been fully controlled since the age of two, with only minor breakthroughs as a result of forgotten doses (and one major seizure two years ago that resulted from several consecutive missed ones).

My son's favorable prognosis and the fact that he can be taught skills and strategies that help him interrelate rather than co-exist with others led me to putting these short pieces together. Had his disability been more serious, this blog would likely have taken a very different path, assuming there was a blog at all.

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