Being a child on the side of the Autism Spectrum that functions more through social settings and intense therapy, means often people think your disability or struggles are nonexistent when you are coping and functioning well. So well in fact, your resources and reminders may not be and are not necessary and in fact may be detrimental to your development.
We assume too much then. Whether Em will or will not need those resources doesn’t mean eliminating them and we shouldn’t continue to educate those around us of what it means for her to have Autism, or to remind them she DOES have it. She’s not going to outgrow it. And maybe more often than not she will function at the same coping level as her peers.
Yet, she is a stimming, loving girl who shouldn’t be ashamed to admit when she struggles. She shouldn’t feel like she has to wear this weight to fit in. Things that look like nervous tics are more they are stims that she uses to cope with her excess emotional overload. She can become a quirky stimming emotionally charged mess in a flash.
So do I hold her back by protecting AND empowering her? Do I end up doing more damage while I think I’m helping her? That is where every parent’s dilemma lies. Where is that line? I tread a fine line. When she wants to change things up, I allow her to. Yet, I still make sure there is a safety net in place.
I push her to step outside of her comfort zone. I challenge her to set goals and work towards them. We don’t use Autism as an excuse and when it comes to an explanation, it’s about why she has a situation she is dealing with. There are consequences and she doesn’t get a “free pass” because of her Autism.
So when someone tells me that we are responsible for holding them back, I have to wonder what that means. By the choices we make in creating a safety net? I disagree that is holding them back. I think it’s a proactive stance to catch them when and if they fall. Does it mean assuming they are incapable? I disagree. As often as I can I do not hold her back thinking she incapable. I know full well Em is capable of many things, some I would never have dreamed of. But I push her to TRY if it interests her. Does it mean not allowing them the opportunity to be outside a “box”? I’ve been the one to empower Em all along. She does get a lot more say than it seems. Or does it mean to protect them from themselves? They can’t grow if they are sheltered and protected and can’t learn from mistakes. Safety nets protect them from imminent danger, but still allow them to fall.
Autism doesn’t define them. How we treat them does. Whether we want it to or not.