Author Kathy Lette has written a breathtakingly beautiful post about her love for her son. She pleas for society to stop “forcing autistic people” to act normal, and instead she asks that we “help them to become their best autistic selves by focusing on what they can do instead of what they can’t.”
Lette, 57, is a mother of two children – Julius, 25 and Georgina, 23.
It’s her son, Julius who is the focus of a Facebook post Lette wrote about his battle to be accepted as a person with autism and the incredible achievements he has made.
Kathy Lette: You might as well have ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Image via Facebook.
She writes “When my autistic son was nine he came home with a sign sticky-taped to his back saying “Kick me I’m a retard.” Tearing up, he stammered, “The kids call me a retard… What is a retard?” You might as well have ripped my heart out of my chest and stomped on it. Going to school now became his second favourite thing, after stubbing his toe repeatedly until it went gangrenous.”
She says that Jules, as she calls him, had an encyclopedic knowledge of the Beatles, Buddy Holly and Shakespeare by the age of eight, but that the school system did not suit him.
“The only subject at which he excelled in class became ‘phoning in sick’. Being put on detention for misinterpreting homework and constantly belittled by classmates meant that school became little more than a master class in low self-esteem. “
“By high school, while most students were striving to learn math and grammar; Jules was striving to make himself invisible.”
Kathy Lette and her son, Jules. Via Getty.
Lette, who first wrote about autism in her fictional book, The Boy Who Fell To Earth, says that while 99 per cent of young people with autism would like to have a job, just 15 per cent are in full-time and paid employment.
“Although wackily bright and quirkily charming, the only future I could envisage for Jules was living in a bedsit on benefits.”
“These daily rejections is why it’s vital to tell your special needs child that they really are special” she says.
Kathy Lette talks about her son on Studio 10. Post continues after video..
Kathy says: “There’s no Owner’s Manual for parents of autistic kids, but it’s imperative to find what they’re good at and encourage it. It doesn’t matter if it’s moth wing fluctuations, igneous rock formations or Tibetan nose fluting – because you never know what their obsession could lead to.
"My own son wanted to study acting. I was dubious – how could someone with autism empathise with a character’s complex emotional nuances? Yes, he knew more about most actors than their own mothers, but was it possible to put the artistic into autistic? “
Jules Robertson in BBC's Holby City. Via BBC Holby City Facebook page.
Jules Robertson enrolled in an acting course, she says “amazingly” he excelled.
“Soon after he was cast in two short films and won an acting award. He then went for an audition for a major BBC medical drama called Holby City – and secured the part. Jules has been a semi-regular since last October, playing to six million people a week. He gets stopped for autographs and has a fan page. “
Kathy Lette says: “As he bathes in praise from BBC producers, cast and crew, I think back to those school bullies and occasionally allow myself a little moment of light gloating. But my main hope is that Julius’ success will encourage other employers to think outside the neurotypical box and hire the ‘differently abled’. We should stop forcing autistic people to act normal, and help them to become their best autistic selves by focusing on what they can do instead of what they can’t. For me, seeing my son finally thriving, well, it’s better than winning the Pulitzer Prize. Nor could I have written a happier ending. Except it’s not an ending, it’s a beginning. And that’s all autistic people need – a chance to shine.”
In 2014 Lette told Fairfax Media about how she learnt of her son’s diagnosis.
She told The Two of Us that at 14 months Jules began to lose his speech.
“He started banging his head on the floor and engaging in repetitive play. Eventually, when he was three, he was diagnosed with autism.”
She said she first felt denial.
“There must be a mistake. You bankrupt yourself consulting every expert on the planet. Then there's the guilt - was it something I ate or drank? - and the "Why me?" phase. Then, finally, you begin to accept that this is a unique little person and you just have to do your best by them.”
Lette said her son, Jules was told at school he was stupid, that ”other parents would pull their children away as if he had leprosy” but that he was eccentric and extraordinary.
Kathy Lette and her son, Jules in 2007. Via Getty.
She told The Australian: ”How I envied the normal worries of other mothers, who fretted over sugar content in cereal, how to make broccoli interesting and why their offspring wouldn't eat anything that hadn't danced in an ad on television. The parent of a special needs child has to be their legal advocate, fighting his or her educational corner; full-time scientist -- challenging doctors and questioning medications; executive officer -- making difficult decisions on their behalf; and also, full-time bodyguard against bullies."
Now with her son at the age of 25 she is still his advocate, still his bodyguard and always his champion.