Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Acceptance Does Not Mean ...

Question: What would you change about your autistic child?

Parent A :"I accept my child for who he is, I wouldn't change a thing about him."

Parent B "You're in denial and must be lying. You think you're better than everyone else. There are challenges don't act like there aren't"

This conversation is extremely common in the autism community, it's one I have engaged in countless times. It's a conversation that in the early years of our autism journey caused me to be excluded from support communities because of some misconceptions. Somehow, it was assumed that since I accepted my child and didn't want to change him that:

1. I was in denial
2. I was lying and trying to make myself look good
3. My child was too "high functioning" for me to understand the struggles of others
4. I didn't have any challenges at all
5. I was judging other parents
6. I was against support

None of that is true.

Acceptance DOES NOT mean there are not challenges 

Accepting my child as the person he is means I also accept the challenges that come with parenting. It means I do not fault my child for being who he is and I don't make any challenges my child may face about me. It also means I do not wallow in sadness over the things he can not or has not done yet.

When I decided to become a parent, no one ever promised me a journey that lacked challenges. Maybe I had a head start on the game because I knew in reality it would not be all sunshine and rainbows. I'm not sure.

Do I deny that there are challenges when it comes to parenting an autistic child? Absolutely not. But, often times parents link the challenges they may face directly to their autistic children.This line of thinking translates into parents believing they must "fix" their autistic children to fit the world, which can be extremely damaging to the child. It is also a very unhealthy mindset for any parent to be in.

I recognized early on that most of the challenges/fears/struggles I have had as a parent were not because of autism or my child. It was because of the ignorance and lack of acceptance in society. My child was not the problem.
Graphic courtesy of PACLA  https://www.facebook.com/ParentingAutisticChildrenWithLoveAcceptance

We live in a society that measures your value or worth by how well you can comply and blend in with everyone else. It is completely baffling to me that we are expected to raise our kids to be compliant, but as they reach adulthood messages of "be yourself" and "don't let anyone change you" become center of many of our conversations.

That logic simply does.not.compute.Why is it not okay to raise our children to be confident and secure with exactly who they are from the very start? Why does society insist we change our children and try to patch up the damage later? Is it because compliant children are easier for adults to manage? I think that may be the case.

Acceptance DOES NOT mean no support.

Every human being on this planet needs support at one point or another in their journey, some need it more than others. I have sought out my fair share of support over the years, and also given my fair share of advice. I believe supporting parents of autistic children is an extremely important factor in the outcome for the child, but I never let my need for support trump my own child's right to privacy and respect. I kept it small and discreet.

I didn't spill my son's most intimate moments to online support groups with 1,000's of members nor did I blog about it in public spaces because I respected my son's right to privacy. I also know I would be devastated if anyone did that to me. I am also autistic and have had some not-so-great moments myself. I understand how embarrassing it would be if someone exposed some of my most intimate experiences publicly without my consent.

During the years that I took on the school system and fought with my every fiber to not have my son's rights violated I had the support of a wonderful friend and advocate. I couldn't tell you how many times she picked me up when I was a mess of sobs. Watching my child suffer because others were ignorant hurt me so much. No mother likes to watch her child struggle.

She was there through my breakdowns. She listened to me cry and vent. She also gave me options, solutions, and empowered me. So when I was done crying I was able to stand up and say "Hell no, I will not back down". That is support. There were even times she had to tell me I was wrong about some things, and she did it because she cared about the outcome for my son. That is also support.

Constantly commiserating, listing negatives, comparing your children to others, having pissing contests about who has it worse, always talking about how hard it is and never accepting solutions is NOT support. If I were to entertain this type of behavior I would be enabling you to continue on an unhealthy path. It is simply not healthy for you or for your child to be in this mindset.

Acceptance DOES NOT mean not improving

Another myth about autism acceptance is that we are against helping our children improve because we disagree with highly intensive therapies that take away from the childhood experience.

What those of us that accept our children have come to understand is autistic children and people have their very own developmental timeline to follow. We respect and understand that it's very important to allow our children to meet milestones in their own time and not by some developmental chart a professional made up.

We also understand that just because our children can't do something now, doesn't mean they will not ever do it. Autistic people grow and develop just like every human does, just in their own time. My son is nearly 16 and I promise you he is nothing like he was at 4 years old.  I am 34 and am nothing like I was at 4 years old either. We both grew and matured, in our own time.
Graphic courtesy of PACLA  https://www.facebook.com/ParentingAutisticChildrenWithLoveAcceptance

I think professionals scare a lot of parents into therapies by telling them if they don't do XYZ therapy now they will miss the "window of opportunity" for their child to be successful. That's simply not true.

20 to 40 hours a week of intense therapies and schooling for years in order to get a child "table ready"or make them "indistinguishable from their peers" is not allowing a child to enjoy their childhood. That is not teaching them to accept who they are. It is sending the message to them that there is something wrong with them.

If you believe that your child is not smart enough to understand that all his time is spent focused on "fixing" him while other children are out playing and having fun, you are not presuming competence in your child.  My grandmother use to say "Children are little not stupid".

Acceptance DOES NOT mean I don't want to support you

Another common misconception about those of us that accept our children is that we don't want to offer support. This is a big one.

I DO want to support you. I want to share this wonderful way I have of approaching the world and viewing my child with you. I want to GIVE that to you. I want to EMPOWER you. I want to give you HOPE! I want to listen to your struggles and help you sort through them. I will lend you my shoulder if you need it and extend my hand if you need helping getting back up.

There are limitations on my support though. I will not offer you support if you are violating your child's right to privacy or dehumanizing him. I will not allow you to constantly complain and get "stuck" on the negatives while never taking any solutions.

I will not stand for you speaking of your child in ill ways.I will not entertain you with comparing functioning, co-morbids, therapies, doctors, and challenges. I refuse to listen to how you wish your child was someone totally different than who he was born to be (example: I hate autism, if I could make him normal I would, and any cure/fix/recover talk)

The autism acceptance community has so much to offer parents, we have a need to help you make a better future for your child. We are a large and diverse community made up of autistic adults, parents to autistic children, autistic adults who are not parents and professionals that are allies to our community.

We want to help.


  1. THIS, dear G-d! All the things I've ever wanted to say to autism parents, in a more cogent and intelligent way!

    1. ♥ It's been swimming in my head for a long time, Thank you!

  2. Amen! The biggest way I ever helped my son was to change myself from parent B to parent A. Accepting him for who he is and treating him in the same manner I would want to be treated has changed everything. Thank you for sharing!

    1. Lisa, I am so glad that you were able to change your thinking ♥ Thanks for reading

  3. This is so awesome. I am totally reblogging this, and telling a friend who networks on LinkedIn with autism groups so she can pass it on as well.

    If there was a like button, I'd hit it a hundred times!

    1. ♥♥ Aww Thank you so much I appreciate it! I am glad you found it useful.

  4. Passive, pliable and obedient leaves the door open for small children to be molested.