Recently, I engaged in a conversation with another parent about Autism Acceptance. The conversation became more than that as discussions of sensitive subjects are want to do. There came the moment that I had to exit the conversation because it was not going to a place of productivity. And I left with words on my tongue that I am going to share here.
It is clear to me that there isn’t a real understanding about what acceptance of Autism means. The parent that I was discussing this with had a very different idea than I do. My guess is that her feelings represent many of the objections to acceptance.
- Acceptance does not mean neglect. It does not mean that Autistic children do whatever they want, whenever they want. It does not mean that parents who accept their children as Autistic people do not have boundaries and expectations of their children.
- Acceptance does not mean that we do not take active roles in the education of our children. It does not mean that we do not pursue accommodations that will allow our children to thrive and acquire life skills. It does not mean that parents do not have educational expectations.
Obviously, I am speaking for no one but myself. But when I think of accepting my daughter, these are some of the things I consider.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. For instance, my child does not have a sophisticated method of communication. I accept that she might flop to communicate that she does not feel well, that she is overwhelmed, that she is tired, or that she plain old objects to my request. I accept and respect that this is her way of communicating important things. Accepting that this is her current method of communication does not mean that I do not pursue a more robust form of communication on her behalf.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. She has sensory issues–both aversions and seeking. I do not expect that she will eat whatever I put in front of her. If she doesn’t like what I offer, then another healthy alternative that I know she will eat is offered. It does not mean that she gets to replace spinach with chocolate–spinach with broccoli, or carrots, or peas, yes.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. Holiday gatherings are difficult for her. As much as I would love for her to enjoy a big house full of loud people, she does not. I accept that she needs to escape to her man cave whenever she wants.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. I accept that she has an agenda and interests that are different from my own. I accept that I need to engage in activities which she finds enjoyable. And I expect that she will tolerate activities which are not of interest or aversive to her.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. I draw the line when she endangers herself or others. I draw the line when she encroaches on the rights of other people.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. She does not like to make eye contact or engage in many other conventional social behaviors. I accept and respect her right not to make eye contact or orient her body in certain ways.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. I understand that self stimulation fulfills a need for her. I do not expect her to keep quiet hands. I accept that she flaps and that there is no logical reason why she shouldn’t.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. When it comes to her education, I do not have lesser expectations of her. I accept that her needs are different.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. She has a neurology which is very different than that of most other people. I accept that she needs more supports and more accommodations to achieve educational goals which are meaningful to her. I accept that it is my job as her parent to pursue those supports on her behalf. Relentlessly.
- I have reasonable expectations of my child. I accept that she has no interest in looking like everyone else. I accept that she has no interest in behaving like everyone else. I accept that she has no interest in being like everyone else. I accept that she is an individual. I celebrate her as a unique individual with strengths and weaknesses.
As a parent, it is my job to accept my child as she is. To love her because of, not in spite of, her differences. To love her unconditionally and to teach her to love herself…even though many people, tragically, do not accept her.
to be continued….