On blackness and autism, identity and essence

Often I’m asked “What are you?” Racial and ethnic identity still inform so much in our culture. The question asked really is a question of identity. “What are you?” masks the underlying question, “Who are you?” When I was young I was black. My father, Neal Hemachandra, was black. His mother, Leathe Wade Colvert, was…

The Egg Chair

When my son Nicholas was one and a half he lost all his speech. He couldn’t even make coherent sounds. He was already speech-delayed, but he lost all the words he had gained. When he was three years old, he started in a preschool program for autistics in Bellingham, Washington, at Alderwood Elementary. Debbie Haney…

The Autistic Spectacle

My son Nicholas is 13, and he juggles balls and rings. Sometimes we talk about him becoming an entertainer or even joining the circus when he gets older. (The younger brother of one of his good friends recently got a unicycle. I’m dreading the likely outcome here.) But when Nicholas was younger he was much…

Roads Not Taken: Lessons in Autism, Inclusion, and Life

Most of us tend to interpret the world in ways that validate the choices we’ve made and confirm our rightness. People on differing sides of an issue — or an idea — will often interpret the same event, the same circumstances, or the same fact through the prism of their pre-existing opinions and thus draw…

Ray and Nicholas Hemachandra sitting by the Blue Ridge Parkway in North Carolina (photo by Kristi Pfeiffer)

Top 10 List: Things to Remember When Working with Autistic and Other Disabled Children

I recently did a recorded presentation for an online class at Western Carolina University–Biltmore Campus for students working to become special-ed teachers, counselors, and therapists. I’ve done a good number of such talks, usually in person, over the years at TEACCH, UNC–Asheville, Blue Ridge Community College, Western Carolina University, local medical groups, autism camps like…

Autism and Grief

I don’t mourn my son’s life. I celebrate it. My son is 12 years old and very much alive. In the autism community specifically, and in the special-needs community generally, no small amount of conversation, writing, therapy, and individual and group support is dedicated to grieving. I started to write this post with the intention…