Now Reading: Hey Autism Community! Give Toni Braxton A Freakin' Break!

Hey Autism Community! Give Toni Braxton A Freakin' Break!

As usual I’m a little late to the party with my “Reaction to Toni Braxton’s Comments” post. 
Whenever a big story comes down in the autism community 5-6 people will email ol’ Autism Daddy asking my reaction. 
And very often I don’t write my reaction because the story doesn’t really affect my life and because as I’ve written many times before even though I have an autism blog I try not to live & breathe autism 24/7 (read)
But this time 6 people asked for my Toni Braxton reaction.  I think half of them thought I would be appalled by her comments (they don’t know me very well do they) and half thought that I would totally understand and get where she was coming from. 
So I googled it to see what all the hubbub was all about. 
And the first headline I saw was this from the Huffington Post.
Catchy headline, huh. It’s got everything. It’s got religion. It’s got autism. It’s got abortion. It’s got all the hot button topics wrapped into one. 
I read the article and I was like “feh big deal”
My takeaway from reading that one article was 
She was brought up in an extremely religious household. She had an a abortion which she was guilt ridden about. And when her son was diagnosed she wondered if this was punishment from god. 
What’s the big deal?
I know, I know.  Many people in the autism community are saying autism shouldn’t be considered a punishment, autism is a gift…but I’ve written before how I don’t buy into that line of thinking(read) …
But what if her son read that some are saying?  He will think his life was a punishment to his mom?
No, Toni is saying that she thought the disorder that he has (yes I’m calling autism a disorder) might be punishment from god, not her son. 
If her son was born blind or deaf and she said that would there be this much controversy?
Oh my god her deaf son might read that his mom thought his deafness was punishment from god. How can he look at his mother the same way again?!
What is it about autism (and autism alone?) that makes parents evil if they express that they wish their kids didn’t have this disorder?
And let’s go back to what Toni said. Even if you feel autism is a blessing and “wouldn’t change your kid if you could”. Did you always feel that way?  Or did it take quite a few years for you to get to that “autism is a blessing” place?
When your kid was first diagnosed weren’t you angry & scared?  Didn’t you ever wonder “why me”?
Well that is what Toni Braxton was writing about. When her kid was first diagnosed she wondered if his autism diagnosis might be punishment from god. 
What, people aren’t allowed to express how they felt in their own autobiography?!  She’s supposed to suppress that part of her life, that part of her story so as to not offend the autism community… which by the way should be embracing her?
I read that one article and then I read a few others and then I read some of the articles & blog posts with some of the criticism she got. And some of the criticism is that she still feels that way… and that the comments she made to US Weekly (quoted in that Huff Post article) stating that she now feels differently were just her way of back-tracking…but her book tells how she really feels…
So I wanted to read the autism pages of her book for myself.  It seems that nobody else has done that.  Everybody is just reacting to the part of the story that the media has spoon fed them. 
So I went on and within seconds using their “peek inside” and their search book feature I found all the pages that refer autism. 
And I’m not sure if this is copyright infringement but here they are. The actual pages from Toni Braxton’s book, Unbreak My Heart: A Memoir that talk about her son’s initial autism diagnosis.  
(the word autism is highlighted in orange because that is how I found these pages)

That’s pretty much it, folks…
So the takeaways for me after reading those pages are 
–that she was angry when her son was first diagnosed (weren’t we all?)
— that her pediatrician didn’t take Toni’s motherly instincts seriously enough (happens to most of us, no?)
— that because of her strict religious upbringing she initially thought this might be gods way of punishing her for a previous abortion which she said 2 pages later she doesn’t believe anymore. 
–that the supposedly evil Suzanne Wright from Autism Speaks personally called her the day after  her son’s diagnosed hit the press and offered her support and help. 
So again, I don’t see what all the fuss was about. If you want to be mad at anyone be mad at the press (or maybe her publishing company) for pulling out this autism is punishment story and making it the main focus of her book. 
By the way, on amazon the book is listing at 272 pages and the word autism only appears on 7 pages.  That’s less than 3% of the book.  So the book isn’t all about autism. 
It’s an autobiography. People write about the tough times and the good times in autobiographies. The great autobiographies really get into how the person felt during important moments in her life. Her son’s autism diagnosis is one of those moments. And from what I read she attempted to write about it openly and honestly. 
For that she’s been crucified. 
I just don’t get it.  What am I missing here?  What angle am I missing?
–If you’re anti-abortion you can be mad at her for having one. Fine. 
— If you don’t believe in god or don’t believe that god is a vengeful god you can maybe disagree with her.  Ok. 
— if you don’t agree with her non-committal stance on the autism & vaccine issue, no matter which way you lean, you can maybe be mad at her… but again she didn’t write an autism book she wrote a memoir about her life…so let’s not get wrapped up in the vaccine issue. 
— you think she’s a horrible singer…or she’s too sexual for your taste…fine….although i got no problem with either 🙂
— but for her to say that she was angry when her son was first diagnosed with autism and she wondered if it was god’s way of punishing her for an abortion but she doesn’t feel that way anymore?   That’s what people are up in arms over?
Come on autism community!  There’s so many more important things to get riled up and ticked off about. 
Let this one go. 
Cut Toni some slack. 
That’s it. That’s all I got. 

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Written by

Frank Campagna

I’m a 48 year old neurotypical dad with a 14 year old son with severe, non-verbal autism & epilepsy. I created this blog to rant about autism & epilepsy while celebrating my son who I affectionately call “the king” :-).

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47 People Replies to “Hey Autism Community! Give Toni Braxton A Freakin' Break!”

  1. THANK YOU!!!! I had the same type of reaction and also wrote about it. How any parent who found out their child had XQZ syndrome didn't hand out cigars and proclaim how awesome it was. Instead we all looked to blame, we cried, we worried we screamed at the universe. For anyone to take that one line and not read the rest of the life is doing her son the injustice. Not a mom who was honest enough to go there.

  2. Anonymous

    OMG I totally can see where she is coming from!!!!! I had 3 abortions before I had my austie (2 as a teen/young woman, one right after having my first typical child) yes, you read that right….THREE!!! Judge me all you want, I was an extremely promiscuous young woman, I did what I wanted back in the day and I ended up paying for it horribly! I did also think the same thing when I found out about my girl!! I apologized profusely to myself and asked for God to have mercy on my kid!! Now that I'm in my 40's, I've forgiven myself for all the bullsh*t I did when I was younger, and came to peace with my horrible, self-centered past and turned myself around so I can be the best person I can be for my girls. Did I think that her autism was a 'punishment' from the universe? Perhaps. But who was really being punished the most? Me or her? She doesn't know life apart from autism so why should I act like a guilt-ridden assh*** mother in order to justify something I did 20+ years ago? Thank you so much for keeping it real. Honesty is refreshing no matter how many times it hits you in the gut.

  3. She's human. Are we not all human? This is a problem I have with the Autism "community" and that's the we as parents aren't allowed to have "real" feelings. And that the feelings you have though they are not highly regarded are wrong but they are not. Your feelings are YOUR feelings and they are valid. No matter who you are. That you are also suppose to suppress your feelings and not tell anyone. Act ashamed and alone and that's how you'll end up. That's not good. I think you posted the best post on this subject. I saw people on instagram bitching about it and I was like what was the issue and then I LOOKED and found her quotes and was like yeah ok I get it. seriously. The first day you have a diagnosis you are not in the right frame of mind.

    1. it's not that you aren't allowed to have feelings, but that you need to consider how your kids will react to this when they hear about it or see it. most parents don't think about that

  4. I have felt that way before and I think most people have felt like they were being punished for something bad they did. Its a hard road and I know I went through a period of blaming myself. People need to quit hating.

  5. Anonymous

    Nice balanced article.

  6. My sister has autism, not only my mother feels bad about it, but she even questioning God why her? Even the environment of her work she even blamed it. You know thats normal reaction especially to the mothers the feeling of guilt, lack of confidence but mostly mothers feel what will happen to their children (with autism) in the future the big worries thats the root of their reactions. I just sometimes hate my mom when she always told me take care of your sister when i die…. grrrr but you know what i will not only take good care on my sister because she is also my life, everything I do, I'm doing this for the three of us together with my son. Im proud to be a sibling of a person with autism and at the same time a special education teacher.

    1. Anonymous

      I'm sorry! I tell the same thing to my 'normal' kid! I HATE to put that on her and she has every right to stick her in a home when I'm gone…BUT at the same time, I think she has the maturity to understand that it's her ONLY sibling she will ever have and it's part of her family so even if she has kids of her own(I do not expect my austie to ever get married and have kids but you NEVER know 🙂 I think my oldest will do right by her sister; at least I hope she does. Thank you for realizing that we need them just as much as they need us! :)))))

  7. I'm mad at the press release that made it sound like she still believes that autism is God's punishment. Unlike you, AD, I didn't go to the original source. You set me straight.

  8. Anonymous

    I only read a few of the pgs shown & was quickly uninterested….there really is no big deal in all tht the press is making it seem. We all felt pretty sh*tty whn our child/ren get the final diagnosis. Good for Toni, just goes to show the world tht she's human….like everyone else, now lets move on & tend to our child/ren… thx for sharing!!

  9. It's funny I read this and remembered when my son was diagnosed and I did the same thing. Not about abortion but I searched and searched for any reason or thing I could have done to cause it. I blamed Myself for years. Even to this day I catch myself thinking about that mountain dew I drank or the Tylenol I took for migraines while I was pregnant. Sure it sounds crazy to other people but no one can tell us what caused it and we are left to our own and just have to deal with the fact that they autism.

  10. There is no reason to get bent out of shape about that. That is her opinion. She has that right.

  11. Anonymous

    Now I'm not as angry at Ms. Braxton, but still the thing she said that enraged me the most was the whole business of god punishing HER! Who has autism? Her son or her!

    1. Anonymous

      But her son having autism does affect her. We are all affected by our children's autism. I thought it was what I deserved because I ran away from home and stole and was on the streets for several years, but I know that was just one of my initial reactions. We are human. Judgment is for God. Just curious, how can you say "you are not angry at Ms. Braxton" and "the thing that enraged me the most" in the same sentence?

  12. I just had to read this cause it is so unfair to judge another person without knowing the details – the background information. Instead of all of these negative people being upset and yadda yadda, they are better off trying to better themselves and their children with autism. And yes, I have a son with when I read the caption I knew it was just to rev people up…people need to read beyond what the media wants to only show us.

  13. jeannie burell

    All I know is…Autism is hard!!! I don't have time to blame anything!!!!!!

  14. Great post, thanks. So she may have said the wrong thing, she's not perfect, hell, who is?! She is a mum of a child with autism and so she has also been through similar struggles, mentally and physically. The media is the guiltiest party here.

  15. Anonymous

    She is no more required to be "socially responsible" than anyone else. She is a human being who decided to write a book. She is not a political or religious leader. If you don't like it, don't read the book. I, too, am of the persuasion that autism is being widely looked at through politically correct rose-colored glasses. My son struggles SEVERELY because of his autism. I would take it away in a second if it meant he could have the friendships and connections he desperately wants. I accept him wholeheartedly as he is and he knows that. He is intelligent, creative, and warm-hearted. He is not who he is because of his autism any more than because of his eye color, shoe size, or height. HE wishes life was easier. HE wishes he could handle public school. HE wishes he knew what it was like to have a friend who understands him. HE wishes he was not autistic. Those of you who shame those who do not jump for joy about autism should be ashamed for piling condemnation on others for how they feel.

    1. Anonymous

      I agree 100%! My son is a miracle. He is my rock, my one and only true source of love and joy. If I could take it all away I would. To me, being happy about autism is to be happy about cancer or heart disease. Of course we celibrate our children and everything they can do and accomplish, but I refuse to celebrate his autism. I certainly felt many of these emotions and those who don't (although I don't know if Dads feel it as severely as Moms do) admit to these feelings of guilt and retribution are just still in denial. I refuse to let autism define my son, and he will be a better and stronger person for it. You go, Toni! I got your back.

  16. I said it in my last comment about your memorial day post….the first reaction a parent has to a diagnosis of autism for their child is not one of happiness….it's I'm scared out of my f-ing mind, why did this happen to my child, kind of reaction. People need to simmer down, and let people feel the way they feel about their child's diagnosis….as long as in the end they pull it together and do what they need to do for their child. For some, autism may be a "blessing", but for a lot of us, it's a heart breaking reality that we would change in a heart beat.

    1. Anonymous

      Love this " For some, autism may be a "blessing", but for a lot of us, it's a heart breaking reality that we would change in a heart beat."

  17. True emotions are not politically correct. I recall my soul searching moments in the beginning. Why did god do this, let this happen, what did I do. Guess what first impression this is what god gave me for using fertility treatments and not being patient. Do I still believe this of course not. Shit happened we will never know why or how but asking is part of learning to cope and accept what is. Blaming god, yourself, doctors is all part of the normal process of coming to terms with your new reality. Having a child with autism does not give you special skills or obligations to make proper political statements about autism.

  18. So well said. I did have a visceral reaction to the autism as punishment line, especially when I saw news item after news item repeating it. It's her memoir, yes. But along with the confessions, I think there should be social responsibility here, too. Although she does address the God thing ("I know how God has nothing to do with these situations"), in the end, she doesn't elaborate on how and why her child is NOT a punishment. Celeb tell-alls usually get attention, good and bad. How much better if she would have raised awareness about how awesome kids with autism can be.

    1. As always, Ellen, your reply is spot on. Thank you for voicing my exact thoughts after reading this post.

    2. Anonymous

      There are 4 other pages with the word autism on them. Maybe she does? Read the book before you judge!

  19. Hmmm…weird that Suzanne Wright didn't call ME directly…wtf??

    1. I was thinking the same thing… How come I never received a personal phone call???

  20. Anonymous

    I agree…what's the big deal.
    I have also thought ( and sometimes still do ) that God was punishing me because I was such a brat as a child.

  21. I think the big deal is not what she thought or felt at the time or now, the big deal is that she put it in writing, so that her child will forever know that at one time, she saw him as her punishment.

    1. her son may not be autism, but it's like his right hand

    2. Anonymous

      Because her son is NOT his autism nor vice versa. Autism is not a person anymore than cancer is a person…or Alzheimer's. ..

    3. But how is that different? How will that make a difference to her child who will hear or read that his diagnosis is her punishment? Of course everyone is allowed to state their opinion, I get that, but that should have been kept to herself for the sake of her child.

    4. Anonymous

      No, it clearly says my son's autism was my punishment, not my son was my punishment.

  22. Anonymous

    When my son was first diagnosed, I was devastated. I was angry, depressed, horrified. I was a Special Education teacher and I remember saying "I just don't want to be on the OTHER side of the table for an IEP." You know what. I got over it. We ALL say and think things when things don't initially go "our way". Toni Braxton shouldn't be attacked for her feelings. Who are we to judge?

  23. Well said Autism Daddy end it leave her alone ! I always say I must have done something really bad in another life so does that make me a bad Autism Mom !!!

  24. Anonymous

    Nailed it! Thank you for your friggin' common sense! –shannon

  25. Anonymous

    I too thought my previous abortion contributed to my sons autism diagnosis. "Payback", punishment, vengeance? No one knows for sure, but when you're hearing that your son has autism so many things go through your mind. I feel ya, Toni!

  26. Anonymous

    I agree with you. People can state their opinions if they choose to do so without everyone needing to crucify them. Really people, I am pretty sure you have some opinions that other people disagree with. I will say though that it is not just the autism community. My son is also Deaf and if there were someone out there publicly saying that their child's deafness was a punishment from God, you bet your ass the Deaf community would be very pissed off and would do the same, crucify her. Unfortunately it seems to be a running theme in a lot of tight knit communities. Too bad really. I would hope people who feel ostracized a lot would be more understanding of others. :-/

  27. Anonymous

    Amen! As usual, people jump on the band wagon without reading the original words themselves. Wish we all could be a little kinder to each other and not so sensitive.

  28. Anonymous

    Amen – The media is the culprit as usual

  29. Anonymous

    I'm far more bent out of shape that our officials are trying to cut educational jobs that help out kids – she's been there done that – her only crime is to say how she felt.

  30. Anonymous

    amen to that one – silla goodlett

  31. Thanks for posting this. I agree that there is no reason to get all bent out of shape on this.

  32. Anonymous

    Agree with Anonymous above! AD, you are right on again.

  33. Anonymous

    I think the real crime is naming a child Diezel.

    1. Anonymous

      so true, so true