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Critical Thinking and Parenting

How Skepticism Saved My Special Needs Kid from Certain Death You are a skeptic, and your child has autism. How do you react?

As a skeptic, I try to view the world in a rational way, but I’m also a parent, which means I’m insane.

A In April 1995, I became very ill. My doctor performed tests and found a parasite dwelling in my abdomen. I was overjoyed. During the infestation, I experienced nausea, exhaustion, and frequent urination. Finally, I endured hours of excruciating pain, culminating in surgical extraction. Afterward, I hugged the parasite and named it after a dead poet. I brought it home, cuddled it, and bought it many nice toys. The parasite emitted piercing screams and soiled itself. I found this encouraging and took many photographs.

Twenty-two years have gone by since the infestation. The parasite lives in my house and downloads music from iTunes without my permission. I’m a rational person, but I’m smitten. I’d do anything for her.

She is my daughter, Emily. She’s disabled, and she’s anything but a parasite to me.

Meet the Parents

When it comes to skepticism, parents of children with disabilities are a special case. Special-needs parents are particularly vulnerable to fraudulent claims and quack medicine and are often shamed for not trying alternative cures. Imagine: your child has been diagnosed with a chronic condition that cannot be cured. Everything you’d hoped for your child—to grow up to be a happy, healthy, independent individual—has been taken away. You mourn the child you expected to have while still trying to be the best parent you can be for the child you do have. Special-needs parenting requires extraordinary commitments, among them:

Time. Parenthood demands taking time for your kids, obviously. Special-needs parenting demands more. Time for therapy, doctor’s appointments, time off work. If you have other, healthy children, you have to balance the time you spend with your special needs kid with time spent with their siblings.

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