The Johnny Orr Band released their single We’ll Get By as a tribute to families living with autism. Johnny Orr wrote the song at the request of a friend, Candi Spitz, who is raising two children with autism.
The lyrics, sung from the point-of-view of a child with autism, share his frustration at being unable to communicate, and demonstrate that he is aware of his mother’s pain and frustration but is unable to comfort her. He sings,
“I share my heart, but only in my mind. I share my pain when I scream at night. I can’t express to you what I’m going through, the only way is for me to cry. . .
“Mom I see your fear through every single tear, just to know I’ve caused you pain from inside of here, and my autism is like a prison that I’m in.”
The video features scenes of a boy with autism going about his daily life, at school, home, and horseback riding. The video also features an actress portraying the boy’s mother, depicting the daily stresses and joys of raising a child with autism. In one scene, she seems upset as sorts through a pile of bills, not realizing that her child is sitting on the staircase watching her. The video also shares a tender moment between mother and son as she gives him his medication, and later we see her looking on in pride as he rides a horse.
While most parents of children with autism see the song as a loving tribute, others take issue with Orr’s portrayal of autism as a “prison.” One fan commented on Orr’s Facebook page,
“‘Autism is like a prison?’ Seriously? It is clear that you haven’t spoken with any autistic people. I suggest that you do so, and that you also research the concept of neurodiversity. Promoting the idea that autistic are less-than, or damaged in some way, is harmful and dangerous.”
Another fan stated,
“The simple criticism is that the tone set by the lyrics is one of despair and anguish. There are people in the autism community who view autism as a disease (something to be treated with a cure). They view autism as equal to cancer. This is a very negative way to raise a child with autism.
“The child is raised with a false belief that it is “bad” or “wrong” to have autism. And many parents of autistic children choose not to raise their child so negatively.”
Others saw no problem with the lyrics. One mother wrote,
“I have no problem with the lyrics to the song stating ‘Autism is like a prison,’ . . . it can be! Some children have a hard time expressing themselves, which can be seen like being in prison. It’s simply a metaphor, nothing more.”
A portion of all proceeds from We’ll Get By will be donated to local autism charities. Watch the video and add your comments below.