How Autism Makes Me a Better Parent   6 comments

I know many people who don’t know autism do not think of autistics as adults with families of their own. When it is mentioned, I bristle at the idea that I, or anyone else, is raising a family in spite of autism, so I thought I’d give a short, incomplete list of reasons why my autism makes me a better parent.

1. I have less expectations than non-autistics.
As a child, I never played with dolls, thought I’d get married, or imagined being a mommy. I didn’t raise children because having kids was what people are supposed to do when they grow up. I did it because I am needed, and parenting is one of the only things to ever come naturally to me. I have never thought ahead to my child’s first day of school, dance recital, football game, or prom. Although all three of my biological children were non verbal or semi verbal in their preschool years, I never felt the need to mourn the child I imagined I would have. I simply made note, got appropriate help when needed, and let them find their own pace.

2. I truly listen.
All the time to each and every word. In all honesty, I don’t have another option. That point where someone is rambling on and on and it all sounds like “blah, blah, blah”? Nope. I hear and process it all. When I can’t hear well enough to process, it makes me so overwhelmed, I have to stop my child and tell them I can’t listen right now, but I’ll come back to them in a few minutes. Anything else, to me, would be dishonest.

3. Gentle, constant honesty
I can’t lie, but that doesn’t mean I run around tactlessly blurting out truths in a hurtful way. My children sometimes don’t like what I have to say. If they have not put in a full effort, I call them on it, and if their actions are hurtful to someone, I let them know. However, my kids never doubt me. Promises are few and far between around here, but they do not get broken. When my children receive praise, it is genuine and not effusive.

4. Lack of embarrassment
The handful of times I’ve been embarrassed in my life, it has always been due to an intellectual slip up on my part. I have sympathy for the parent who is mortified when their child has a public meltdown, but on a personal level, I can’t wrap my head around it. Do I get dirty looks in the grocery store? Sure. I’ve had appalled neurotypical friends point it out to me, but I don’t notice and don’t care. I’m on my third child who has less than ideal public displays. I have been escorted out of retail establishments, yelled at by strangers, and had the police called on me several times all due to my children’s issues. Inconvenient, exhausting, and occasionally heartbreaking? Yes. Embarrassing? No. Therefore, how I handle these issues is not influenced by outside pressure. I handle each one based on that child’s needs, motivations and skill set.

5. Super hearing
Did that child really think they could get by with that without me knowing? Think again, dear one.

6. I don’t rely on my “executive functioning” or lack thereof.
I write things down. On bad days, the to do list includes items like “brush hair”. My calendar contains appointments set for things like renewing prescriptions and which day of the week my older son stays after school (even though it’s the same day every week). I actually remember everything, but everything is too much to keep prioritized. I don’t assume any task is too easy to screw up. When I do screw up, I work hard to forgive my imperfections. (I have a long way to go on that.)

7. Time management
Here is my autistic secret weapon. I have a near savant like sense of time. If you ask me to demonstrate or prove it, you will be met with a blank stare in which you should infer many four letter words are silently being thrown your way. I’m not a show pony or an autism novelty act. I don’t need clocks or watches to know what time it is or how much time has passed. I can accurately estimate the time any given task will take, and I am rarely wrong. In my head is a constant awareness of each second. I have to concentrate to not focus on it. I have no ‘I lost track of time’ moments, but they sound quite tranquil, and I’m envious of yours. Since this internal clock is my tool, I’m going to use it. If I’m late, there’s a good chance I had a meltdown. Yes, I still do that. No apologies, it comes with the territory, and I’m not supermom.

Posted November 1, 2011 by itsbridgetsword in Uncategorized

Tagged with ,

Awareness is Not Enough   7 comments

This piece is part of a wonderful project by Stuart Duncan of Autism from a Father’s Point of View. Other “awareness” movements rang hollow with me. Frankly, if someone can’t understand or accept me, I’d prefer they stay unaware. What follows is an open letter by Stuart with my own experience added below. If you want a better understanding of autism, I urge you to look for others’ stories as well.

We (The Autism Community) need for you to know what Autism is.
We can only achieve that through Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

Awareness of autism has risen dramatically in the past few years, and awareness is certainly a good place to start. Increased awareness has helped parents get earlier diagnoses for their children, and it has helped secure funding for research. However, it hasn’t done much to change public perception of what autism really is.

This is a call out to the world to understand the people and the disorder.
This is a call out to the world to accept the people and the disorder.

You can not understand or accept the people until you understand and accept the Autism they have.

Autism is a part of who they are.

The media has focused almost entirely on children with autism – but children grow up. In a society where one in 110 children is diagnosed with autism (the latest figures from the Centers for Disease Control), no one can afford to ignore the significance of this disability. People with autism are children, teenagers, adults, men, women, scientists, programmers, engineers, unemployed, in care homes … too many of them continue to be bullied, to be judged, or to just be ignored.

Each person is unique. Each person has their own unique set of strengths and weaknesses just like you or I.

The charities, the organizations, the groups, the parents, the people with Autism themselves… we ask you… no, we need you to know what Autism really is.

Today, we ask for your Autism Understanding and Acceptance.

This is what Autism is to me. What follows are my words.

My autism has no filters. The quiet little restaurant isn’t quiet. Every table, no matter how far away, is my table. I hear each conversation. I smell each plate of food. I know the busboy two tables over had a smoke break within the last hour. I don’t want to be rude, but I can’t understand the waiter for the din of words around me. Then someone makes a joke. I might have caught the humor in another setting, but I don’t and stare into my drink or blurt out some overly literal and revealing reply.

My autism has no filters. My dress has seams in four different places. One of them brushes my skin, and I must acknowledge it before I can continue typing. Clothes are rigorously inspected before purchase for synthetic thread that will render a garment unwearable after the first wash. Patterned fabric with more than two colors makes me uneasy.

My autism has no filters. Only with intense concentration can I focus only on what is in front of me. This gives me balance problems. I can take the stairs up, but I need the elevator to come back down. I am not graceful. I do not have a strong sense of how close objects or people are to me. I bruise myself on door frames, and flinch when you make conversational hand gestures.

My autism has no filters. I am unable to lie to you. I could try, but I would fail…and cry…and likely vomit. I will not catch you in a lie. I’ve tried for decades to learn how, and know now I simply don’t have that skill. It’s cost me dearly, and almost took my life. What I can do is rely on those who have proven they have my interests at heart, and use caution with those whom I love too much to keep out.

This said. I am proud of who I am and what I’ve done. I’m a wife, mother, and grandmother. I think my unique perspective has made me a better person. Being unfiltered has made me unfettered. I’m rarely embarrassed. I have a personal moral code, and I follow it 100% of the time. Therefore, I have almost nothing I’m ashamed of. I promise little, but I deliver on those promises. I may not be socially savvy, but I am intelligent and analytical, with a keen knack for research and learning. I don’t run on auto pilot. I take in each moment for all I can glean from it. Rather than blindly exist, I experience life. This, more than all the accompanying inconveniences, is what autism truly means to me.

Posted April 2, 2011 by itsbridgetsword in Uncategorized

Tagged with

%d bloggers like this: