I saw a graphic on Tumblr tonight and I have to say, it bothered me.
It likely bothered me more than it should.
I went back and forth about posting it here but here it is, because I am hoping this can teach people how autism isn’t:
Take a moment to really study that.
This is such an insult to all people’s intelligence. It’s an insult to those who are autistic, because how much more pigeon-holed could they be going by this chart? This doesn’t show a spectrum, it shows an ugly, untrue line of bad stereotyping.
There is a piece of paper in my possession that says J has “classic autism”, those words on the far right of the “spectrum” up there. Yet not one week ago his teacher was telling me how he just soaks up learning like a dry sponge soaks up water. He learns constantly and voraciously, both in typical and atypical manners. What a huge disservice I would feel done unto him if I were to find his classroom professionals followed the chart above.
These children, adolescents and adults carve their own paths… just like their peers. They do it in their own way, in their own time, and it is starting to really bother me that the pressure is there to “train” my son to be “normal”. What is wrong with J being J? I love J being J, even when he’s challenging me to my utter last straw! I appreciate the tenets of Applied Behavioral Analysis, for example, but I appreciate the focus on the individual and their needs more. Above all else, my son needs to learn that being himself is above all, first and foremost, important and good. He needs to know that at least within the walls of his own home, apologizing for being himself is not going to be necessary.
So I will do my best not to mention autism when we are out. I will stand back and let him learn, whenever it is safe for him to do so, how he needs to cope with things. I will be his handhold when the world gets overwhelming, but I will not shackle him to a diagnosis that is just a definition of part of who he is. It’s as much a part of him as his eye and hair color, as his voice and his laughter, and I have to learn as his mother how to be the most supportive person I can be for him in a world that is not always going to understand.
This is why wandering the internet is scary, folks. You wander general parenting sites, where everyone can be so very holier than though. You wander special needs parenting sites, that can be either extremely supportive or extremely engaged in the Pain Olympics (note: Everyone loses when engaging in these. Pain isn’t a competitive sport). You wander into the autism specific sites, and get hammered from both sides. And then you find the smaller, more intimate communities and realize there are people who will listen, from all sides, and who will have discourse.
Man am I thankful for Diary of a Mom, 4 Paws for Ability and my June 2010 parenting group for showing me there can be sane groups of parents who don’t have to be fully like-minded to show respect and understanding to one another while helping each other through the hard stuff.