Wednesday, May 25, 2011

What If Oprah Had A Child With Autism?

After 27 years, Oprah Winfrey is broadcasting her final show today. For those of us in Chicago, it’s the end of an era as perhaps the biggest star to call Chicago home closes up shop.

Over the past two decades, she’s become a larger-than-life figure. Called by some the most influential woman in the world, she is now a global icon. To millions of American women, she was more than just a television talk show host; she was a girlfriend, therapist, and spiritual leader.

For the past two nights, our local PBS station has rebroadcast old interviews of Oprah from back in 1984 when her show was first starting out. I caught only a bit of it while washing dishes, but the part that intrigued me most was when the interviewer, John Calloway, asked her if she would like to get married some day. She said sure, though we now know that she never did.

But, what if she did? And what if she had a child with autism?

The younger Oprah, before she became OPRAH, may have been a sensational mother for a child with autism. Oprah has shown that she can be tender and that she possesses a great amount of empathy, qualities that are essential for good parenting of a child with autism. She also can be plain spoken and aggressive, but in a non-threatening way. I could see her effectively cutting through the red tape with school systems, insurance companies, and the medical community. And perhaps her most impressive talent, the remarkable ability to inspire others, would be particularly beneficial when raising a child with autism.

Of course she also would be an extremely articulate and passionate spokesperson for autism parents. That is, if she had the time to continue to be a television personality while doing all the parenting work. I wonder if she would have tried to do it all, or if she would have put all of her energies into her child at that point. The world may never have gotten to know Oprah in that case.

If she had her child later, after she became a megastar, she would still be the same person, but I wonder how her parenting might have been different having all that fame and fortune. Would she have put her media empire on the back burner to focus on being a mother? Would she have turned to her seemingly endless cadre of professionals to help her care for her child? Is it too far-fetched to imagine Dr. Phil and Dr. Oz as the semi-surrogate parents for Oprah’s child? Would the rest of us be able to relate to her as she threw all of her enormous resources behind her child’s treatments?

I can’t really picture Oprah the celebrity as a parent, particularly of a child with autism. But, I think the person underneath, the one who rose from poverty and overcame adversity would have been a darn good one.

But, what do you think? What kind of parent do you think she would have been?


  1. She is intelligent...empathetic...goal oriented.

    She would have passed those traits on to her children.

    While I think she would have been a good one...I also think she was already one.

    Through her demonstrated great maternal instinct...she has been a surrogate mother to millions across the globe....spreading her wisdom through her keen insight into human nature...just as a mother does to her children.

  2. You said it well, she has been a mother figure to many around the world.


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