Teaching us to fish
My name is George André Morrison. I work at the Dallas Public Library and have been with the City of Dallas for 14 years. I am also a high-functioning autistic person. I was diagnosed with Asperger's Syndrome in 1990.
I am writing this open letter on my friend Tim Moody's blog to bring attention to an issue that is dear to my heart. I believe it is important to other people as well.
The reason I have been a success in both school and work was that my parents made many sacrifices to help me and my normal sister. I am proud to have parents like them and am now taking care of them in their old age.
Some people are not as fortunate.
On March 6, 2012, a 22 year old autistic man, George Hodgins, was murdered in Sunnyvale, California. The perpetrator was his mother, who then killed herself. From what investigators can determine, the mother despaired that she could not get resources to help her son and believed he was better off dead.
The reason I mention this is that the media is sympathizing with the mother and identifying with her desperation, but downplaying the existence of her son.
This strikes a powerful chord in me because I know many autistic individuals who depend on their parents or other caregivers to navigate the daily struggles of life. I know it is both physically and mentally demanding to take care of someone, because I am experiencing those stresses with my own parents. Just because these deaths happen does not mean the public should develop an attitude of apathy and resignation.
I write this letter to ask two requests of you.
On March 30th, the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network, along with other groups, will hold a candlelight vigil in certain locations around America to remember George Hodgins and other physically and mentally disabled people who have been murdered by their parents or caregivers.
In Dallas, ASAN-DFW will be holding a candlelight vigil at Flagpole Hill in White Rock Lake from 6:00 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 30th. Because we could not inform Dallas Parks and Recreation the necessary 30 days before the event, we can only have a maximum of 20 people there when we hold this vigil.
If it is possible, I would like you, the readers, to see if you can arrange to have this vigil at your houses of worship at that date and time. Many of you know someone with an autistic youth or adult. That is my first request.
The second request brings me to the title of this open letter. Many of you know the old saying, 'If you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. If you teach a man to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.'
If we want to prevent further deaths like George Hodgins', we should find ways to allow physically and mentally disabled people access into the workplace.
One solution for people like myself is Non-Pareil Institute(www.npitx.org) located at the Southern Methodist University campus at Legacy in Plano. This non-profit company was founded by Gary Moore, the father of an autistic son. He wanted to channel his son's obsessions with video games into a marketable skill.
I am also a student there. In that institute, we are learning to channel our obsession with computers and develop certain software applications. If you go to the website I mentioned above, you can see a short film about some of the projects designed by the students and also buy Soroban, an abacus game designed for the Apple Ipad.
My second request is that you support Non-Pareil Institute or other measures that give the physically and mentally disabled the ability to enter the workplace to lift themselves up by their bootstraps. We do not want to exist on handouts. Instead, most of us want to be given a chance to lift ourselves up, then help those around us with our newfound skills.
The reason I write this letter is not only to speak out for the dead like George Hodgins. Rather, it is to appeal for those of us who wish to continue existing in this imperfect world. I appeal to your sense of justice, decency, and compassion.
I believe, just like my parents did when they came to America, in equality of opportunity. Give us a chance to be productive citizens instead of treating us as dependencies! Give us the ability to be free instead of being burdens to our caregivers who have to shoulder their own burdens!
Give us the ability to participate in this society and protect us from those who wish to do us harm.