"In truth, I don't know what Gus will be able to do. I do know that he does practice a kind of learned helplessness; I did not know, for example, that he could pour a glass of milk for himself until one day recently I got vertigo and couldn't move without being wildly nauseated, and no one was around, and Gus really, really wanted milk. It was that day when I thought about something John Elder Robison had written in his book Switched On, about the low expectations we have of people with autism, how it extends to everything in their lives."
And, just like in her section about eugenics and wanting to give Gus a vasectomy, she stops short of really thinking about what she's actually saying and making all the connections, even though she's laid all the pieces out. She has, by the way, spent the entire book talking about all the things that she's certain Gus will never be able to do. He'll never be able to hold a job, never go on a date, never make friends, never marry. So many nevers.
I've made it to that part, the one where she talks about her desire to sterilize her son.
"How do you say 'I'm sterilizing my son' without sounding like a eugenicist?" (116)
Part of her realizes that the answer is "you don't," because the next page and a half is all about eugenics. But here's what she ends up settling on:
"But wherever you stand on this question, when you start considering how the history of disability is inextricably intertwined with the history of euthanizing and enforced sterilization, you come away unsettled. I began to question my certainty that Gus should never have kids. There is a good success rate in vasectomy reversals, and surely there will be even easier, more reversible methods for men soon. And when there are, I'm going to be the first in line to sign him up. Kids at twenty or twenty-five? No. Thirty-five? I can hope." (117-118)
So, a forced vasectomy is still definitely on the table, but it's okay because it'll be reversible. D-:
"Does [Gus] even understand that most people are not entranced by escalators? That he doesn't see the world the way most others do? I've tried to approach the question a few times - 'Do you know you are autistic?' - and he always acts like he doesn't hear me. I want to understand what he's thinking. Is he thinking?'"
That last sentence, guys. Yes, your son is thinking. He may not be thinking about things that interest you, but he's thinking. You've even written about some of the thoughts he has related to you, like how he thinks escalators are beautiful.
Also, is it really that hard to relate to Gus's feeling that escalators are beautiful? I mean, the way everything moves and fits together is perfect. There is beauty in that. (Which maybe isn't what Gus finds beautiful, but I still find it a bit surprising that Newman can't seem to think of a single reason why her son would be so entranced by escalators.)
Edit: And it's supposed to be "broach the question," right?