Monday, October 15, 2012

Understanding Autism Acceptance

Amy Sequenzia

Accepting an autistic child does not mean ignoring the challenges that may be part of autism.

A parent does not need to pretend that it is not hard to deal with those challenges to be accepting.

Accepting autism and an autistic child is about stop mourning a child that does not exist and find the awesomeness on the autistic child in front of you.

First, please read Jim Sinclair’s essay Don’t Mourn For Us. Second, I am not saying that some parents don’t love their children. What I am saying is that acceptance is about the child, or autistic adult, and their self-image.

Parents cannot say they accept their autistic children if they demonize autism.

I remember how it felt when my mother blamed autism for the way I did things. I felt like I was not as good as the other kids, I felt people did not like me the way they liked the other kids.

If a person says “I accept you but I hate that you can’t speak,” the child only hears, “I hate who you are.” For us non-speaking autistics, the ability to speak is unknown, so we don’t feel like we need to be fixed. When there is too much “Oh, I wish you could talk,” we believe we are wrong, we start seeing ourselves as less.

That does not mean we don’t want to communicate. We do, and there are other ways besides speaking.

Autism is about neurology, and that’s who we are.

G.I. issues are not exclusively an autism issue and I don’t know of anyone who proposes not addressing it. One can be fighting, even hating, this problem, and still be accepting of autism as a different way of processing emotions, feelings and the world.

Sensory issues can be debilitating, but nobody is giving up on trying to figure out ways of improving the coping mechanisms (stimming can be helpful).

Acceptance is about seeing such differences and how the environment can affect us. And it is about understanding and making accommodations, instead of saying we are too broken to participate in the community; instead of making us feel ashamed of who we are. We react to outside stimuli because that’s who we are. Acceptance can make accommodations a trivial thing (at least I hope so).

Some autistics can become aggressive towards others or engage on self-injurious behavior. This needs to be addressed and there are different approaches to it. Understanding is also needed because these behaviors are also a reaction to something. Acceptance means that we will be told that this is not appropriate, that therapies might be necessary, but that it does not erase all the qualities we all have.

Not toilet trained? You would be surprised by the number of independent adults with bathroom issues.

Acceptance is about recognizing that an autistic person is, and will always be, different but not less -- even as some challenges are addressed.

Accepting an autistic person is accepting the autism as part of that person. Challenges can and should be dealt with, but the neurology, how we see the world is unique and should be celebrated.

Ultimately, acceptance means acknowledging that the way the neurotypical world sees and reacts autism can be harder on the child (or autistic adults) than on the parents. It is about helping us with our self-esteem, our love for who we are. It is about stopping mourning for us and starting helping us to show the world that we are not broken. The world does not need to love us. It needs to accept us so we can thrive, in our own way. And parents can be our allies to show the world how.