Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Your shoes

Dear Kassiane,

You don't know me, but through the craziness of the internet, I've come to know you a little bit. We have mutual friends, and I've read many of your self-advocacy posts with increasing interest. I've just finished reading your post, "Here, Try On Some Of My Shoes", on the Thinking Person's Guide To Autism Blog. Well, to say that I *just* finished it would be a lie. I finished it an hour ago, and have been processing your words ever since. Despite us being strangers, I felt compelled to write to you, to engage in a dialogue on your experiences, on the very real risks to Autistic children and adults that you highlight, on my experiences as an Autism parent and as an extremely supportive member of the Autistic movement, and on the one thing that draws us all together: our humanity.

I hope that is ok.

I want to start by thanking you.

Truly and sincerely.

Thank you for sharing your story, for 'loaning me your shoes', and for speaking so honestly and rawly about the very real abuses happening to some of our Autistic children.  Your story is so important, not only in the Autistic community, but in our society as a whole.

There is a very real epidemic out there- one that has permeated our world since the dawn of time and that we are far too slow to address: the ongoing onslaught of abuses happening to children at the hands of their parents, caregivers, and loved ones. These atrocities are happening to our Autistic children. They are happening to our children with other complex needs. They are happening to our neurotypical children. They are happening to children in wealthy homes. They are happening to children in poverty.

Every day, every where we look, children are being abused.

And there is absolutely no topic I take more seriously or rally against with more ferociousness.

That your abuses happened to you because of you neurology is a doubly tragic. Somehow the world seems still intent on justifying the wrongs done to our "disabled" population, even more so than it wants to justify the crimes against neurotypical children. And beyond that, this population is- all too often- victimized long after their days of childhood have passed.

Your shoes will likely always be beaten, battered, and muddied.

Which brings me to my next point:

Kassiane, I am sorry. I am sorry that your parents failed you. I am sorry that the school system, the child welfare system, and the world as a whole failed you.  I am sorry that I was just a baby when you were born, and that I would have been powerless to help you even if I had been there. I am sorry that you are still under attack by a world that doesn't understand you, and hates what it can't understand.

I am sorry that, even without intending it, I am still a potential threat and a potential danger to you. I understand that, by virtue of my own neurotypicality, I will always operate from a removed, privileged position. And I am sorry that not everyone in my shoes recognizes that.

And now for my final point: A promise.

I promise to not let what happened to you happen to my child.

I promise to fight for human rights for him and for all Autistic children everywhere.

I promise to always be committed to being part of the change that you are so desperately seeking.

I promise to never strike either of my children, and will always strive to speak to them with love and respect.

I promise to read as many self-advocate posts and blogs that I can to better try to understand the world that you and my son are living in.

I promise to celebrate his neurodiversity, and to insist that his doctors and teachers only use terms and descriptions that are positive, empowering, and reflective of his identity as an Autistic child.

I understand that most "Autism Moms" will think I am crazy. I know that my husband and I are still anomalies in the world of special needs parenting, and that there is still tremendous work to be done to get everyone to a place- not of 'acceptance', 'tolerance' or 'inclusion'- but to a place where we recognize that our differences make us stronger, better, and more adaptable as a species.

That we should be celebrated for who we are, not 'despite' our uniqueness, but because of it.

Please know that I am on your side.

Please know that I have bookmarked your post and return to it every time I feel that things are tough. Because every so often I need to be reminded that Autism isn't something that happened to me. It is something that I chose when I decided to become a parent, knowing that my child's future was out of my control. I may not have understood that then, but I do now.

I told my baby that I would love him and fight for him no matter what.

Thank you for reminding me why that is so important.

I wish I could hug little girl you. I wish I could make her feel better. Most of all, I wish I didn't have to.

Sammie's mom.


  1. This is lovely. Thank you for writing it and being such an awesome mom. Please come hang out in our parenting community where your lovely blog post was just linked https://www.facebook.com/ParentingAutisticChildrenWithLoveAcceptance
    PS--Kassiane is a moderator there if that helps sweeten the deal :)

  2. I've been a lurker for a while. We only received our "official" diagnosis this week (after two years of "it's definitely autism…or something like it") so I've been pretty quiet online, giving my friends and family a chance to digest our approach to parenting Sam since it's a little out there :P

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