Are we Trying Too Hard to Teach our Autistic Children?

Autism often invokes grief in parents who may have this limited scope. Sometimes, they lament lost dreams and assume that their life is now going to become a huge medical roller coaster. They see their child through a medical lens and feel deep sadness as their child goes about their natural ways of being. That to me is the real tragedy. Imagine not having joy in your beautiful children! But it doesn’t have to be this way. 

We don’t have to put them in ABA.

We don’t have to devote hours every week to driving them to therapies and classes.

We don’t have to battle with a highly anxious child because we are trying to expose them constantly to things they hate; with the belief that it will prepare them for life.

We do not have to accept the professional and social assumption that our children are faulty, and that they must be fixed or tinkered with in order to have a good quality of life.

We don’t have to be afraid that they are autistic; we don’t have to be afraid of who our child is.

We don’t have to punish our children, or correct their unusual play, or force them to say thank you or hello or how are you or happy birthday or thank you for inviting me to your house for dinner.

We do not have to force them in order to guide them, in order to love them, and in order to help them to learn. We can help them to become proud of themselves instead of ashamed.

As parents we have so many choices and I believe we should use those choices wisely – our kids depend on our reflection and careful parenting.

The path I have chosen personally is one of respectful parenting (also called gentle parenting). I don’t adopt a “from the top down” parenting method of making orders and using various things (usually punishments or rewards) to enforce those orders. I live in a home in which we have abolished the “because I said so” hierarchy. We try to work together. We try to meet everyone’s needs without prioritising any one person over another. This is radical in itself in current time, and it is even more radical concerning autistic children. It involves a lot of learning and self-evaluation on my part. And it involves flying in the face of almost everything we believe, as a society, about autism. Even if you do not identify with gentle parenting, I think that many of us do want to respect our children’s neurology – so, I don’t think I am alone in my ideas, questions and concerns.

I don’t adopt a “from the top down” parenting method of making orders and using various things (usually punishments or rewards) to enforce those orders. I live in a home in which we have abolished the “because I said so” hierarchy. We try to work together.

Here are some things that I am working on:

I’m working on learning the line between encouragement and doing for my kids what I think they would want, and putting my children into situations that they cannot handle or that they did not want to be in.

I’m working on the balance between social opportunity and down time.

I’m working on checking my own prejudices, so that I don’t control or limit my kids due to my own fears and conditioning.

I’m working on giving my kids ample time every day, to play, to run, to jump, to climb, to imagine, to create, and to be – in the ways that they already know how to do, just as children throughout history have known how to be children. Autistic or otherwise.

I’m working on figuring out my children’s cues to a more intricate level, so that I can understand their needs better. As they grow, our communication changes but connection remains my goal.

I’m working on problem solving with my children; so that they can help me to get them out of challenging situations and so we can work through problems together.

I’m working on the ignorance within my own community by being open about being autistic, and by not stigmatising autism and being autistic, and by modelling pride in my home and more widely with my family. I am proud, disabled, and autistic and I refuse to be ashamed of myself or my children.

I’m working on reading the writings of autistic and other disabled people, whose documented experiences and ideas are invaluable in my parenting journey and in my children’s lives. There is no equivalent.

I’m working on allowing and abetting, an efficient and happy interdependent family, which means a lot of hit and miss, a lot of complexity, and the beautiful mess of life.

I am working on being loving, compassionate, authentic, and present. It isn’t easy; but I’m a work in progress. 

And my children? 

They are working on being children. And they’re good at it.

Originally published HERE.

Ally is an unschooling mum in Western Australia. Her life with her five children involves messy faces, bouquets offered in grubby fists, beautiful drawings, and a family bed. Ally cares a lot about respecting all kids, including the disabled ones. You can read more from Ally at her blog Suburban Autistics.

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