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Saturday

To all the 'my life is a tragedy cuz my child has autism' bloggers:

It is completely natural and human to vent. I've yet to meet someone that does not need, upon occasion, to say negative things. So why do I strongly disagree with parents of autistics blogging such negative posts about their parenting experience?

Time and a Place

There is a time and a place for all things. A public online blog is not the time, nor the place. Not to say that one should never make a negative comment online, or share the heartbreak and reach out to others-but in my opinion it is uncouth to post a purely negative exaggerated and dramatic look that is so completely one sided.

Venting online, where you are posting a one sided angry bitter rant about parenting your child is irresponsible and misleading. Parents who have just discovered their child has autism are searching the internet for answers.

This is what you want them to see? Blog after blog of 'my life is over, my child is dead, better if he/she had cancer!'? Where is the realism? Where is the honesty? As a parent yourself is this what you feel is supportive?

What about the public awareness aspect? As a parent we have the moral obligation to advocate for our children (be they autistic or not). How can you feel good blogging such an out of proportion look at parenting an autistic, knowing that you are spreading that poison-creating a stereotype that is incorrect, damaging and painful to the autistic persons in our societies?

The real tragedy is that people are so bombarded with these 'woe is me' anecdotes, blogs, articles, books, tv shows etc, that it has become to be believed as truth. Not just a truth, but THE TRUTH. People are buying into the big lie that autistics are less, that they are shadows, emotionless, unable to empathise, unable to learn, develop, nurture or in any way find happiness. And a Lie it certainly is.

Autism does not equal violence. It does not equal worthless. It is not worse than cancer nor is it equal to the halocaust. Being autistic does not mean a lack of emotion, empathy, or happiness. Raising an autistic is not a tragedy. It is parenting.

The Morals of Parenting

Regardless of what challenges your child faces, regardless of their disabilities or lack of such, diagnosis or lack of such, personality, shape, size, colour, etc-regardless there are some things that parents with morals do and do not do.

Moral parents do not abuse their children. Children, all children, depend on adults to protect them, support them and help them survive. Knowing this, moral parents do not abuse this dependance.

(Physical: inflicting physical harm on a child's body) Moral parents do not shake, choke, bite, kick, burn, shock, restrain, handle roughly or strike a child.
(Emotional: any act that can harm a child's sense of worth.) Moral parents do not isolate their child, intimidate, terrorize, threaten, shout, exploit and make unreasonable demands. They do not reject or humiliate their child.
(neglect: not giving the child what they need to develop) Moral parents do not neglect their child. Neglect is when a parent:
-does not make the child feel loved, wanted, safe and worthy
-does not take the child to a doctor or take personal care of themselves
-does not intervene when the child is at risk of harm
-does deny the child food, clothing, shelter when the parent is able finanically to provide such
-does deny their child an education
-does leave the child alone at home too often.

How is this attitude of 'my child is a tragedy' not abusive?


Will your child ever find out you said such things?

Of course they will. You make it public, they will find out. Perhaps they will read it themselves, be told by a family member-it matters not. They will learn that those words you 'vented' on your blog represents how you feel about them. Your friends, co-workers, NT children, family, neighbours will also hear about it. They will hear on the news, on TV and the radio, they will read about it online. How will you feel then, when your angry and bitter words are not just some online vent, but in front of all your aquaintances for judgement?

If you are very lucky, they won't find those very words. But they will find someone elses toxic post. They will wonder if you felt that way.

Pathetic is what it is, for a parent to be so focused on their own bitterness that they disregard the damage their words may cause. Spewing of such poison is abusive.

Moral parents love their child, unconditionally. They teach their child to cope with the world the way it is, while advocating on their child's behalf in hopes that the world will be a better place.

Moral parents learn about their child, their child's interests and strengths so that they can provide an envioronment that will maximize their child's potential.

Moral parents encourage their child to challenge his/herself so that they will strengthen their weaknesses.

Moral parents do not give up. They do not insist their child follows a certain path-but rather guide their child to make moral decisions, guide their child to learn and grow. Guide, not insist and force.

Parenting-the good and the bad

Reading all those angry blogs I started to think about what I personally have done differently with my youngest (who is autistic).

I changed diapers for a lot longer than I did for the older two and cleaned up more urine messes.
Is that tragic?

I sewed more for my youngest as the seams on cuffs of shirts and jackets drive him wild.
Is that tragic?

I had to pay more attention, to learn his body language and to read his facial expressions. (he did not talk till just before he started school).
Is that tragic?

I had to learn, in depth about the following subjects:
Trains, steam engines, bridges, rabbits, pokeman, yughio, electricity, generators, life cycle of plants, bees, lego, magnets, cartoon drawing, castles and medieval times, psychology in general, medical terms, cognition, autism, pragmatics, dsylexia, sign language, french, bug catching and keeping and all the facts of each bug discovered, environmental sciences, robotics, how to raise crickets, the specific details of reproduction, the specific details of the circulatory system and digestive system..... this list goes on.
Is learning tragic?

I had to be more aware of my language and what phrases triggered irritation from my child.
Is that tragic?

I have had more doctor appointments, therapists etc.
is that tragic?

The things I had already experienced from parenting my other children that are often touted as being an experience that only parents of autistics could understand:

-Cleaning up poo art. My oldest loved to decorate his crib. So I already had this covered.
-Fussy eating? HA! all my children are picky eaters, with not two of them following the same set of food dislikes and likes.
-Tempertantrums Yes, my youngest had more of them, but my oldest also threw fits. Lots of experience with this, plus I myself threw major temper tantrums as a child.
-running away and into danger. My oldest was on a halter till he was 5-he never would look where he went and would dart off at any time. My middle child also had to be watched. She closed her eyes when she ran. (try that for scary as hell for a mom). My youngest-well he and his sister are a year apart, so she tattled if he wandered. He also wore a halter.
-strangers making judgemenatl comments and looks. Hell yes, my oldest learned chinese when he was two and barely speaking english. He is so blonde his hair looked white. He was also very loud. And, what parent has not had someone be judgemental? long day running around, kids are fussing in line-pfft, happens with all kids. So my youngest does more obvious things. I simply don't care. I don't tend to explain either. (I do to my children, but not to the rude adult behind me that suggests they need punishment.
-conformity problems. Ummm, nope! All three of my children have issues conforming. None of my children were raised to follow blindly. All three have leadership qualities.
-Fighting the school system. I may have mentioned a few times that I have three children? I have been fighting the school system and it's insistance on conformity since my oldest hit grade three. Fighting at this level is new- now I fight for resources, accomodation, training for his teachers, social groups etc. With my oldest it was fighting for his right to use the bathroom when he needed (he still can't go 2 hours without a pee break), fighting for solid policies on bullying and violence (he would defend whoever was being bullied). With my daughter it was fighting for bullying programs and awareness (when she was being the bully, btw), fighting for resources to teach her more postiive leadership skills in a peer setting, advocating for more extra curricular programs that were not sports. (I live in hockey land), and fighting the school board on a resource that was innapropriate (a book premoting rascism and fear).
-health issues. My oldest is allergic to citrus. My middle child has seriasus? whatever is called when you ahve that flakey scalp. As a newborn she was colicky, her diaper rash was so bad we used cortozone cream. She needs glasses, and braces and can't eat beef or pork (makes her feel ill) My youngest has sinus issues, abnormal bowel movements, glasses and slurrs. So what? I have asthma, allergies, migraines and damage in my shoulder. Part of life.

So yes, I do have a problem with the crying and wailling and bitterness. As a parent you just have to suck it up, fight for resources, information and advocate for your children.
That's called responsibility.
That's called nurturing.
In my book, it's also called rewarding.

Hugs and Laughter

2 comments:

  1. Bravo! I can't understand it either...parenting is hard! parenting any child is hard...Yes we all have tough times...finding the appropriate place to let it all out is great..The N.Y. Times-or ones blog is not the appropriate place. We are talking about people here...human beings.I just don't understand it...

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  2. Sirenity,

    I just ran across this post, and all I can say is THANK YOU!

    I wrote something very similar in January. If you're interested in reading it, you can find it at:

    http://www.journeyswithautism.com/2011/01/08/autism-parents-its-time-to-stand-up/

    Also, I just started a site called "Autism and Empathy" at wwww.autismandempathy.com. If you're interested in writing a piece for the site about your experience of your son's empathy, please send me an email at rachel@autismandempathy.com.

    Blessings,
    Rachel

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