Thursday, 01 March 2012
I can't tell you how much this quote makes me think of autism. When I first read it, I felt like I had an epiphany. It is so easy for us to judge our children based on the neurotypical children we see everywhere. How hard is it to see a child accomplishing a task and wonder when/if your child will be able to do the same thing? The truth is, these kinds of comparisons are not only a waste of time, but they are hurtful to our children.
When my daughter was first diagnosed, I didn't even want to go to the park with her. I hated all the parents there- with their ignorant bliss, their engaged children, and their dreams still intact. I hated seeing their children look them in the eyes are scream, "mommy!" happily from across the park. I thought about my little girl and all the things she couldn't do every time I had to encounter these other families.
Soon, this became less of an issue, until now it's hardly an issue at all. Of course I have my occasional moments of 'woah is me', but for the most part, I've moved on. As time has progressed, I've realized that Dasha is not a neurotypical child. And to judge her as such is incredibly insensitive, devaluing and ridiculous. This is where things get tricky. I think a lot of parents find themselves in this battle between accepting their child's autism and trying to cure their child's autism. It felt to me that if I didn't compare Dasha to other neurotypical children, then I was accepting her autism and that I was enabling her to be less than. But I also felt wrong in my heart to devalue my daughter by having an expectation of her to be someone other than she is.
I am not determined that I must 'cure' my daughter, but I do not fully embrace all aspects of autism. I choose the middle ground. There are some things about my daughter's autism that will need to change if she is going to be able to achieve her full potential (whatever that may be). But there are also things about my daughter's autism that I find unique, inspirational and intriguing. And when it comes down to it, autism is part of who she is and I LOVE her in every way, the way that she is. I think autism can bring something unique to the table that us neurotypicals can't at times. Whether that is a different perspective, dedication to a topic of interest, or a profound appreciation for the things that we might miss. But autism must be harnessed and molded in order for these attributes to be the defining factors in our children rather than their difficulties. That means a lot of hard work on our part to make sure that the difficulties of autism do not inhibit the gifts our children have.
Which also means keeping the bar high, but within reason. That means changing the expectations I had when she was first born, and taking the process day by day. That means throwing all that future nonsense out the window, looking at today and saying,"where does the bar need to be right now?" I don't know how my daughter will end up. But I am going to have the bar in an attainable place, with attainable goals, just out of arm's reach so she has to grow a little bit to get to the next level. And I am going to rejoice every single time she reaches the next level, instead of thinking about how much farther she has to go before reaching some imaginary, standardized level of achievement for all people. I am not going to keep some expectation that I (for some reason) felt was guaranteed to me when I decided to have a child, and hold it over her head for her entire life, making her feel less-than. I want her to have high self-esteem. I want her to feel successful. And I want to her always be growing into her full potential. And that has nothing to do with anyone else but her. I am not going to judge my "fish" on her ability to be neurotypical. I am going to judge her on her alone and what I know she is capable of. That way she will always know that she is good enough, that I accept her wholly and that she is a genius in her own right.