Coming of Age with Autism

The May 2020 edition of National Geographic has an outstanding article, Coming of Age with Autism, by Judith Newman and Lynn Johnson.  This article expertly captures the worries and joys of parenting young adults with autism, in both words and photographs.

I’m going to be honest: National Geographic always has the best photographs, but sometimes the articles fail to interest me.  The writing can be, ah, dry and technical.  Not so with this recent article.  Newman, author of To Siri, With Love, has a descriptive, approachable writing style that elegantly depicts the experiences of raising an offspring with autism.  Further, her article included girls with autism, a population that is often overlooked.

Newman didn’t shy away from the challenging topics of work and love.  She tracked down people heavily involved with these major life tasks, the adults with autism, their employers, and the experts providing advice about dating.  Newman deftly highlights the concerns that employers might harbor, and the nuances of dating that others might overlook.   Rather than explaining away the concerns, or glibly passing these concerns off as “autistic strengths,” she explores both sides of the equations, the struggles of both employers and employees, the realistic concerns about dating, the hopes for success, and the fears of what might be.

Similarly, Johnson provides the much needed visual supports via photography.  She captures her subjects, illuminating strength, vulnerability, and most importantly, humanity.  No apologies were offered in these photos, no attempts to polish people up for the camera. I would love to see the photos that didn’t make the cut, as I suspect the other photos tell a very textured story.

Thank you, Newman and Johnson, for publishing in National Geographic. May every article be as easy to read and as honest as this one.

And thank you to my friend for bring me her copy of National Geographic.  My friend’s family subscribes to National Geographic and seems to enjoy the articles, not just the pictures.  Ah, diversity at its finest!

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