“Well, everyone is a little autistic.”
“Everyone is being diagnosed with something nowadays.”
“Oh, don’t worry, he’ll be fine. It’ll all work out.”
These are just some things I’ve been told over the past few years that bother me. It diminishes my and my kids’ struggles with being autistic. Sure, “everyone” may have autistic traits. I mean, lots of people get overstimulated or misunderstand social cues. But not “everyone” has all the autistic traits needed for a diagnosis (whether by a professional or yourself).
To actually say one is autistic, one must meet certain criteria, like with any diagnosis. By simply brushing off one’s diagnosis by saying everyone struggles is just plain disrespectful and ignorant.
Neurodivergence isn’t a fad or something fun to try on, like new clothes or even new music. It’s a way of finally understanding myself. It’s a way of finding like-minded people who actually get what it means. Having my diagnoses and connecting with others has been an enormous help in making me feel like I’m not totally crazy. There are so many other people out there that see things like me.
Telling me “not to worry” or “things will work themselves out” just makes me more frustrated. It makes me feel like my thoughts or feelings just don’t matter, that I’m worrying over nothing even though my concerns are valid. This can be over any number of things, but here I’m referring mostly to my son, whose struggles with autism and ADHD are more pronounced than his sisters (probably due at least in part to his diagnosis of slow processing speed).
I know worrying doesn’t actually help things, but when it comes to my kids I’m going to definitely be concerned about them. He struggles with the most basic tasks. Going to brush his teeth can be an ordeal if he gets distracted on the way to the bathroom from his bedroom. Most things take him at least twice as long as his peers to complete.
All of this frustrates him. All his dad and I want is for him to be successful, for him to make friends. For him to be a “regular” eight-year-old.
But being autistic ourselves makes parenting him a challenge. I don’t know how best to help him. Quite often, we feel desperate. We need alone time away from stimuli, so we let him have his iPad.
Yes. The dreaded iPad.
That’s another thing that’s hugely controversial amongst people we know.
“Screen time is bad.”
“We don’t allow screens.”
“Screens are bad for them.”
Thing is, we agree. Limiting screen time for all our kids would be ideal. But keeping a happy home – and our sanity – is pretty important, too. So we let him be on his iPad much more than we should.
I bring this up here because I feel the difficulty of our situation is never fully appreciated or understood. Don’t get me wrong; I don’t need people to feel bad for me or pity us. That’s far from what we want or need.
All I want is for people to empathize a bit, to allow us to parent as we need to. What works for one family may not work for another, and that’s okay! Basically, if you aren’t in our shoes, leave the judgment at the door.
It’s easy to judge what you don’t understand or what you only see a little of. It’s harder to be supportive and empathetic to things you may not fully understand.
And that’s okay, too.
I suppose the real point of this is simply don’t think you understand that which you have little experience with. That’s kind of the point of this whole blog: to educate others on what it’s really like to be a neurodivergent family. As we all know, education is power, and that’s true in all things.
Appreciate what those living with neurodivergence have to say. They may know what they’re talking about.
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