We live in a highly polarized society. Everyone has to be right. Everyone should be frightened into submission. Everyone should care if they offend someone else; no matter the personal cost. Sounds like we live in a society run by bullies. If you don’t feel the same way, prepare yourself.
Just reading that first paragraph you’d think I meant politics and hot topics. You’d be wrong. I’m talking about how it feels to live in the autism community and how it feels when people try to tell us how to raise our kids. It’s how we hear the same “theories” and newest “scientific reports” over and over again.
My favorites though are two that go hand in hand with bullying; specifically of our kids. One lies in the theory that autism isn’t “that” bad and we enable our kids by not “pushing” them hard enough. That the worse a child’s autism appears the lazier that parents are. The second lies in the idea that we need to “bully proof” our children by not labeling them and taking that “power” out of the hands of the bully.
Many times the people who have told me or people I know these things have very little understanding of what autism is and why we choose to “label” our child. Often there are no questions for us to why some of us have told our children their diagnosis and explaining what it means for them. Often we are willing to explain and answer or our kids are so that we can eliminate what could snowball out of control.
Recently, while trying to explain to a parent the struggles, our kids have from sensory overload and communicating she couldn’t wrap her head around it all. I tried so hard to stay calm. This person first tried to tell me why the labels are detrimental to our kids. So I tried to explain that while sometimes those labels do hinder our children with people not able to see assets in some cases or deficits in others they do empower our children. I also tried to explain why some people choose to share with the children their diagnosis and sometimes their peers in kind. Empowerment is so huge for our kids but they already feel “weird” in social settings and while it’d be great to “ignore” it, often the explanation of how their brain works is that AHA moment for them to understand. It’s also important for us to tread carefully balancing how they view this. We never want our children to feel “broken” or “unlovable”.
I tried to explain to her how our kids are like MACs trying to work with PC software in a PC world. Just like the software needs to be adjusted in order to work sometimes our kids need some help to adjust to what life is throwing at them. I tried to explain that our kids brains work differently. I even have gone into depth with people in hopes that understanding our kids will show that we are really up against the challenges.
I also have been known to lose my temper. I’m not proud of those moments. It gets old trying to help others understand sometimes; especially when they are dead set that we are just lazy parents who don’t give our kids enough XYZ to help them through the day or to fend off bullies. It’s a fragile balance we all maintain and there are days we struggle too.
The long and the short of it, compassion and understanding will take everyone far in life. If we all try to teach our children compassion and looking beyond “differences” bullying could disappear quite a bit. If we all quit getting offended by everything and try to be kind instead I think there would be less stress all around.
Let me be perfectly clear on one thing, though, we are used to battles that look bleak. We are used to fighting for our children. We are used to being the voice for them when they have none to use. As a parent of a child on the spectrum, you develop a wherewithal that allows you to be readily available to protect your child with a look. We know how to fight fights that need to be fought and if our children get bullied we will rally to find out a solution.
We try to teach our children about social norms and expectations but their little brains work so much faster than themselves sometimes that they do things on impulse without even realizing it until after the fact. We then work with them to right the wrongs if necessary and help them to understand it so hopefully it doesn’t happen again.
Bullying isn’t tolerated by many of us. And many of us are working towards change. Will you join us?