According to ABC News, John Travolta described his son as autistic while testifying against two men who were accused with attempted extortion after Jett’s death. It’s tempting to criticize the Travoltas for keeping quiet about Jett’s diagnosis during his tragically short life. I’ll resist the temptation and be thankful that this news did come out, even under very difficult circumstances.
I’ve met a number of parents who have had great difficulty coming to grips with the reality of their child’s disability. It certainly wasn’t easy for me at first. I took some comfort in our developmental pediatrician’s advice that my son was on the more “normal” end of the spectrum, in spite of his serious deficits in communication and other major sensory integration issues. I’ve since come to understand that the autism diagnosis is the key to gaining access to neccessary speech, behavioral and physical/occupational therapies.
While I understand that this mindset may likely have played a role in the recent upward estimate of autism rates (and an increasing number of mis-diagnosed cases), it is becoming crystal clear that truly autistic kids won’t get the help they need without their parents’ “buy-in” of the diagnosis. It would be great if this recent acknowledgement of Jett’s condition contributes to greater buy-in.