I’m in my forties.
I’m a mother & partner.
I have great friends and family.
I have a Master’s degree.
I have been an ordained minister for more than 20 years. I preach and lead communities, I walk with families through the worst days of their lives, and the best.
I’m now working full time as an artist while homeschooling my daughter.
I have lived in various places, cities and country.
I swim, ride a bike, tie my shoes.
I’m the mom of an autistic, married to an autistic and just this year realized that I, too, am autistic.
I made it this far utterly unsupported. No ABA, no social skills training, no special classes. No understanding parent in my corner (but lots of family drama and trauma).
I’m telling you this for several reasons, NONE of which are to highlight my “successes”.
1) Your kids have you! And you care enough to be here to learn to support them. So many autistics struggle alone or with negativity 💚
2) Your kids (and you) need to build community with other autistics. Having adult autistic friends and mentors is a great contributor to your child’s well being. Autistics get it. We were autistic kids once, too.
And I’m going to be real with you.
Growing up unknowingly autistic was hard. I struggle daily with anxiety that can be crippling. The thing is… It isn’t autism that makes me anxious. It’s 45 years of masking to try and fit in, of hiding myself, and feeling like an imposter, and I didn’t even know why. I’ve burnt out. I’ve fallen apart. And I’ve felt like a failure because of it. I have other struggles, too. Lots of them.
But then who doesn’t? Seriously, every person regardless of their neurology needs support at some time for something. That’s being human. So I have a name for some of my challenges, so does your child. That is a BONUS! It means there are specific people and resources out there to help your child along.
It also means they don’t have to live a masked life. They have the opportunity (in your hands) to grow and thrive as themselves.
I’m writing all this in reflection on the past little while. I have been participating in groups of parents of autistic kids. And it breaks my heart to hear so much anger and meanness towards our kids. I know how scary this is (I had a diagnosed daughter for years before I was diagnosed) and perhaps how far from your hopes. You likely feel overwhelmed and scared. It’s hard. Really hard. So I’m not judging the tone, only naming my heartache and my deep longing for true acceptance for my own child.
In these groups, I have been treated with ignorance and meanness unlike anything I have ever encountered. Why? Because I am autistic. Yes, I’m aware of my privilege, and ability to pass– but I choose not to use them in solidarity with my child and others who don’t have the same advantages. I have been told by people who know only one thing about me (I’m autistic) that my ‘opinion’ is unwelcome, that autistic parents just make it harder for “normal” moms by getting involved, that if autistic people want to be part of groups they must meet the NT standards for communication because that’s the ‘real world’, and that if autistic people are going to be ‘allowed’ to raise children we must have acquired all the proper and normal social skills or else we just fail our kids.
I’m not even slightly kidding.
So. If this is how (some) parents of autistic children treat autistics, what does that say about how their children are living? About the expectations placed on their children? That they are broken and need fixing? That they better get masking immediately.
I’d choose growing up masked and confused rather than being raised in an environment that thinks my real humanity lies in how normal I can be, and how fixed I can get.
Autism is lifelong. But that doesn’t mean unchanging… Your child will learn and grow and change like every child. Today’s reality isn’t tomorrow’s. You have the opportunity to help make a world where your beloved little one can live and be exactly who they are meant to be.
That starts with learning about autism, finding out what acceptance means for autistics. You can listen. You can embrace the adult autistics who are present where you are… making themselves vulnerable for the sake of their children, and *yours*. We want to be your allies. And the way you treat us is the way the world will treat your child.
If that makes you even slightly uncomfortable, do something about it. There are lots of us here to help 💚