The story of Myka and John Stauffer “re-homing” their four-year-old autistic Chinese son broke my heart.
None of us except for Huxley and the Stauffer family themselves know the full story, and I write from the place of being a parent with an autistic child, while also being autistic.
In case you missed the news Myka Stauffer is an influencer, popular on YouTube and Instagram. She and her husband adopted a boy from China in 2017 who they named Huxley. The Stauffers' claimed that Huxley had “medical needs” they weren’t aware of when they brought him home from China.
Like Huxley, my five-year-old daughter is on the autism spectrum and has sensory processing disorder. She also has ADHD. Unlike Huxley, she is my birth daughter, and I did not know she would be born differently wired. Before I finally realised my daughter has autism, I struggled so much to understand her frequent meltdowns, rigidity and obsessions. It was difficult to figure it out because she’s a very bright and verbal girl. She didn’t fit the negative autistic stereotype of a grunting and hand-flapping little boy.
When my husband and I pieced the puzzles together, we could finally relax and give her the support she needed.
When my husband and I pieced the puzzle together, we could finally relax and give her the support she needed. It wasn’t our ‘permissive parenting’. She didn’t need more ‘discipline’. She wasn’t a bad kid.
Her brain is just wired differently, and we all have to work harder to help her feel safe. We have more good days than bad days now. Best of all, because of my daughter, I have learned that I am also on the autism spectrum. She has taught me to treat myself with more self-acceptance and compassion.
This process has not been easy, but I can do hard things. Nothing could have prepared me for my daughter. She was intense from the very beginning. But I persisted, and I show up for her. And I choose to show up for her, every day.
Huxley, on the other hand, has been given up by his wealthy white adopted parents. He was commodified from the very beginning. The Stauffer family went out of their way to adopt a Chinese boy with special needs, which seemed to enhance their brand. I am astounded at the white saviour complex apparent here.
Huxley was already given up by his birth mother for unknown reasons, and now he’s been given up again - by a wealthy and privileged white mother who adopted him.
And as a mother of a child with autism, it breaks my heart because these little ones are struggling with big feelings, sensory overload and they rely on their caretakers to give them the help they need. Their highly sensitive neuroception requires their caregivers to be extra patient, extra kind and extra forgiving. In other words, it’s not convenient nor is it easy.
Regardless, parents like me try our very best, do everything we can to get the help we need, and not give up our autistic children just because it’s hard. And so much of it, at first, is incredibly hard. My eldest still struggles to sleep, and used to wake up screaming in the middle of the night and be inconsolable for an hour. Her sensory issues with eating make it a daily challenge. Her struggles to sense her body’s cues for hunger and bladder fullness made potty training and daily toileting difficult. I wish I had known she was on the spectrum earlier in her life.
Regardless, parents like me try our very best, do everything we can to get the help we need, and not give up our autistic children just because it’s hard.
As her mother, I have given up my full-time job to be a full-time carer for my daughter. Her asynchronous development means that sometimes, she the emotional maturity of a two-year-old while she also has the with artistic and mathematical ability of an eight-year-old. She struggles to eat, sleep, and use the toilet every day. Needless to say, these normal struggles for a child with autism.
I need a support team to get me through my days and nights with my autistic child. My Facebook tribe of parents with differently wired children, my husband, my therapist, my psychiatrist, her developmental paediatrician, and her array of different therapists to help her with her sensory and behavioural needs. The Stauffers' said they had all this therapy for Huxley.
Would the Stauffers' have tried harder if their own biological white child had autism? Or would they have re-homed that child too? Somehow, I doubt that. Is it easier to reject a child who looks and sounds different to you? Possibly.
Huxley, I don’t know where you are. I can only hope that you’re with a new family that loves and accepts you. You are perfect, just as you are. You do not need to make yourself small and quiet to feel safe and accepted. At least now, you no longer with live a family that cannot handle you when you are not Instagrammable. Huxley, you are enough, just as you are.
This is what I tell my daughter, my little brown girl with autism.
This is what I tell my daughter, my little brown girl with autism. We live in a world saturated with the toxicity of white privilege. Children on the autism spectrum, especially children of colour, have it so much harder than neurotypical white children who are born into systems that automatically prefer them. In this world, children like Huxley and my daughter will have to fight so much harder to even be seen, let alone accepted or celebrated. My daughter will have my support for the rest of my life. I hope Huxley’s new family will be there for him too.
Noor Abdul is a freelance writer.