Are parents of children with autism “heroes?”

Our son Gus has obvious physical and mental disabilities. My husband Mike takes Gus out and about quite a bit, and when strangers see Mike comforting Gus after a fit, or feeding Gus in a restaurant, they call Mike a saint… or a hero.

Mike hates this.

“It’s an insult to Gus,” he says.

Now, a collection of stories about parents of children with autism has some bloggers questioning the meaning of the word “hero.”

An review of Autism Heroes by Barbara Firestone said the 38 black and white portraits of parents and families in the book are lovely, but nothing else leads them to recommend the book.

… The gist: parents are heroes if they do not reject their children with autism.

A blog called Autism and other things that consume me doesn’t mince words when dismissing the hero label:

As the mother of a child with autism I get a lot of “I could NEVER do what you do, Julie!” from people. I don’t get it. If their child had autism, they’d stuff him in the garbage and walk away? They’d return him to the hospital as defective? They’d chain him in the basement and pretend he doesn’t exist? Being a parent to a child who happens to have this disorder makes me and other parents in this situation heroic?

Not sure what I think about heroism in relation to parenting children with disabilities. Also not sure what I think of Firestone’s book. I’m guessing the hero title might actually be a comfort to some parents out there, though. The hero title might motivate some parents to continue the challenging work of raising a child with autism. So hey, if this compilation of eulogies brings guidance and support to even a small number of parents of kids with autism, well, maybe Firestone is the biggest hero of all. 


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  1. Katie Broome Says:

    I am currently writing a book for student teachers; a large section of this book will be dedicated to teaching children with special needs. I am looking for parents to write short testimonials that can be featured within the text. If you are interested in writing something..even a few sentences..please contact me at

    Please help me to educate our future teachers!

    Thank You!

  2. Latitude Says:

    My daughter is a hero. She is a Special Ed teacher working with pre-school children with autism. It’s a wonderful program through our local school district. She is passionate and very professional in her teaching methodolgy always working within each child’s IEP(Individual Education Plan, I’m pretty sure that’s what it stands for!) she faces many challenges. She welcomes the challenges as opportunites to help each child reach their next step. She loves helping them. As a her Father, I am so disillusioned by recent ocuurances that make me think why would anybody subject themselves to working with any special need child? My daughter has recently been accused of child abuse by a parent who did not get from the school district, what they wanted for their child. The meeting between the parents and my daughter and the school administration ended with the parents threatening the school district, refusing to sign the IEP and walking out. Next thing you now the school police are investigating child abuse accusations. I am confindent that these charges are bogess! In the meantime, she has been taken from the classroom indefinetely due to school district policies. I can’t begin to put myself in the shoes of a parent of a child with autism there must be everyday challenges I can’t even imagine. But I ask, at what end does bringing down a person who has nurtured and cared for your child, benefit your child? The accusation is not true and she will be vendicated, and the parents of the other children in her classroom all of whom are supporting her and coming to her defense, will have their teacher back carring for their children the way she always has been. Shame on this parent for using my daughter to gain a privalege no other child recieves from the school district.