We all know the type of ‘autism parent’ we love to hate (or at least pity). The kind that goes in for the ‘autism as monster’ thing. Autism as the ‘stealer’ of their children. Autism as ‘tragedy’, autism as a thing to be ‘fought’, to eliminate, to ABA and ‘social skills’ and diet and train etc etc the hell out of their children. The kind who grab at anything and everything that promises to make their child ‘indistinguishable’ from their peers. The ones who can’t bear that their child should be anything less than ‘normal’.
Then there are the ones (usually in or running autism organisations that actively promote the above attitudes) who actively disparage those of us who dare to challenge those ways of thinking – the ones who refer to us as a ‘deluded minority’, crazy or sick, or ‘not really autistic’ at all – the ‘You Can Talk, So You’re Not Autistic’ parents, who accuse us of making their lives more difficult, of being against all training or therapy methods, and wanting to leave their children to ‘drown’ in their severely autistic states.
And also the ones (seemingly more benevolent, but just as contemptuous of us, in their own way) who actively deny us any role in ‘their’ organisations, who sideline and ignore us, claiming to speak for us but without ever consulting us, who pat us on the head and tell us ‘we know what’s best for you, dear’.
We battle these parents, or try to enlighten or ignore them, or sigh over their attitudes, but we sometimes forget there are other parents of autistic children out there who DON’T have these attitudes. Parents who DON’T regard their child’s autism as a ‘tragedy’, or their child as a ‘monster’, etc. Who AREN’T wallowing in grief for a ‘normal’ child they didn’t have, or running here and there searching frantically for a ‘cure’ (though many do seek alleviation for various problems their child might have), or forcing their child into strict programs designed to make their child at least SEEM ‘normal’. They have embraced the autism, accepted their child just as he or she is, and got on with their lives as best as they can. A lot of them are even willing to listen to adults on the spectrum, to get some idea of what their child may someday be capable of, or to help interpret their behaviour, so as to help the child better. Some are even on the spectrum themselves, as autism is genetic, but many are not.
I feel these parents, the ‘unsung majority’ perhaps, deserve a whole bunch of bouquets. Why? Some might ask, surely they/we are just getting on with their/our lives, doing what everyone should be doing? My feeling is they deserve praise and our support for NOT subscribing to the ‘autism as tragedy’ mindset. For NOT being sucked into the frantic search for a cure, the ‘autism business’ that sucks dry the bank accounts of so many desperate parents. For NOT believing that their child is somehow ‘deficient’, or not good enough. For accepting and loving their kids just as they are.
It would have been so easy for these parents to succumb to all that huge pressure, the massive amount of negativity that’s out there about autism, but they didn’t. They had the courage to follow their hearts and their common sense, to do what felt and feels right for their children. I salute their courage, admire their strength, and wish more parents would follow their example.
To those parents, my utmost thanks, and my blessings. You are nurturing the best of the future generations of autistics, and one day they will look back and know just how lucky they are. Thank you.