There's an article circulating the interwebz this week that has my blood pressure up.
Written from the parent's perspective (as most articles on Autism usually are), it claims to dispell the secrets that "Autism Parents" are so cleverly keeping from the world: That we are scared, sad, and lonely.
These, the author claims, are "facts."
So here's the deal. I'm not going to attempt to refute that there isn't an element of truth to her comments, at least from her own experience. Some of these statements probably hit pretty close to home for many families with Autistic children.
But there are two thing that are nagging at me and that I have to get off my chest.
First: The article states that these are the things that Autism Parents won't tell you...the secrets we keep locked inside, hidden behind our strong facades.
I have two words for this:
These "secrets", if you can call them that with a straight face, are the worst kept secrets I have ever seen.
Listen- I get it. There are some challenges with parenting an Autistic kiddo. I know. I've got one. (And yes, he probably is "like your kid"- severely affected, mostly non-verbal, prone to bolting...all that jazz. So please don't come at me with "functioning" nonsense.)
And yes, we have a community of active and amazing parents who are raising amazing Autistic children. We share our joys. We share our laughter. And we share our tears and struggles.
But the latter don't end there.
Take a look at just about every Autism awareness campaign ever launched. Are they just overflowing with happiness and joy?
They are overflowing with fear, grief, martyrdom, and anger.
Kind of like this latest post.
From online news articles like this one, to countless blog posts saying the same thing, the Autism parenting community sends a very loud message, very clearly:
"Parenting my Autistic child sucks."
The other issue I have is with her misuse of the word "Fact."
These devastating life conditions that she claims are universal facts of all Autism Parenting experiences?
Well, here's the real secret: They aren't "facts" at all.
Here's a really closely kept secret of Autism parenting:
"Actually, it really doesn't really suck. Not for all of us at least..."
Autism parenting, like all parenting, has its highs and lows. Such is life. But there are some seriously sweet things about it.
Fact: Every milestone is that much greater.
Fact: Every connected moment is that much more powerful.
Fact: Every time your underestimated child shows you just how capable they really are, you are that much more proud and awestruck.
Disagree with me? Take issue with my use of the word "fact"?
You've proven my point.
Not every parent will have the same reaction to Autism. No one has the right to speak on "our" behalf, particularly not if they are going to reenforce stereotypes and myths that we KNOW are destructive to our children.
Is your parenting adventure sad and awful? Do you want to play martyr and get your fifteen minutes of fame by having the world feel your grief and pain?
If that's what turns your crank, have at it.
But tell your own damn story, and don't presume to think that you have any right to speak for mine.
Because I'll be outright bold here:
Parenting my Autistic kid is kind of awesome. It's totally amazing. He blows me away and 99% of the time our days are filled with the kind of fabulousness that would make Perez Hilton mighty proud.
And sometimes- just sometimes- parenting my Autistic kid is even easier than parenting my neurotypical one.
Sometimes, his strengths are exactly what I need to get through the day, and I find great comfort in the beautiful moments of silence that we share together. I escape into his world, and the quiet there soothes and rejuvenates me.
Is it perfect? Nothing is.
But don't you dare tell the world that I am lonely. Don't you dare claim to speak of my experience as a matter of "fact".
Don't pretend you are dispelling myths when you are actually actively reenforcing them.
Don't throw my son, my family, under your martyristic bus.
That might be your reality.
But it sure as hell isn't mine.
And that, friends, is a fact.