Two Vulnerables

Filed Under (Adam) by Estee on 28-05-2013

When Adam awoke struggling to breathe yesterday, I felt awash with dread. It was noon. I let him sleep in because when I went in earlier, he was warm. By noon, I heard the barking cough – the seal-like sound gasping for air. His face was beat red and temperature burning hot against the back of my hand. As I fumbled my with my phone by his side to reach the doctor, I tried to keep him calm. In my head, I plotted to call emergency in the next few minutes if he didn’t get better. He did. I managed to get him to the bathroom and then to the doctor’s office.

“Sick!” he said in a croaked voice struggling to speak.

“I know, Adam. You’re going to see the doctor and you’re going to be okay. Now don’t cry.” I hated saying it as if I was telling him to be a brave boy, but I knew if he did, he might not be able to breathe again. His face was crying even if his voice didn’t.

Adam has a viral croup and like any parent, I’d rather have the sickness. Today he is marginally better, still unable to leave his bed. I am near him, writing my Master’s thesis while he rests and I’m attending to him. I am a single-mom and have fretted now and again about what I would do in case of emergency. As necessity is the mother-of-invention (?) I’ve found myself plotting in my head how to do things, who I could call in a pinch, the public services available to us if we need them. And now, I am writing my thesis about autism, I write keeping my son and his dignity in mind. Using every morsel of time in our lives to raise him and care for each of us, I can’t help always thinking of Toni Morrison writing around her baby’s spit up and how important were both aspects of her life.

With the croup one has to take prednisone. Adam hates taking medicine so yesterday, after I told him he had to take it to make him better, he listlessly tilted his head on his wet pillow with do I have to? in his eyes. Yet I felt his trust too, that he would, despite previous instances of resistance, do it this time. After he took the medicine, he looked into my eyes – I read it in part as thanks, as desperation, as the vulnerable side of a child’s love and need. Then he mustered a smile and pulled me in for a hug….

As of that last paragraph, Adam came into my room to sit on my lap and I noticed how long his legs have gotten and how I can no longer cradle him. Then he got up and said “put clothes on.” We both went to his room to choose some comfy track pants and a soft long-sleeved shirt. Time to go…

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About Me


I’m a PhD candidate at York University, Critical Disability Studies, with a multi-disciplinary background in the arts as a curator and writer. I am the Founder of The Autism Acceptance Project (, and an enamoured mother of my only son who lives with the autism label. I like to write about our journey, critical issues regarding autism in the area of human rights, law, and social justice, as well as reflexive practices in (auto)ethnographic writing about autism.