By day: mum of an autistic tot. By night: mum of an autistic tot.
Every so often a list goes around Facebook usually stuff like this one that found its way to me recently – “Reasons Not To Mess With an Autism Mom.” Others include, “things not to say to an autism mom,” and such and they drive me crazy. They amount to nothing more than a point by point pity party dressed up as a fierce declaration of strength that relies on thinly veiled threats and lame excuses for poor adult behaviour. Worse, in all of these lists that I have seen, autistic children are described as nothing more than energy vampires sucking life and humanity from their mothers (it’s usually all about the mums).
And let’s talk about “us” of these lists shall we? I am the mother of an autistic child but I now cringe at the term “autism mum” or “autism mom” because a subset of mothers who have hijacked those terms have taken it upon themselves to speak as if for all mothers. Yes biomeddlers, mercury moms and misery mums I’m talking about you. I don’t want to be lumped in with people who dehumanise their own children for the sake of a lost cause. Further, these lists and many groups for parents of autistic children seem to totally overlook the fact that – shock! Horror! – autistic women exist and some have autistic children too.
So, here’s my, from the gut, reaction to the latest lame list:
1. Some of us have given up on social skills and don’t care what we say or do.
I care very deeply what I say and what I do especially in front of my child. That’s not to say I do not address ignorance or discrimination when it occurs but I certainly take great care in how I do so. Really, is effing back at some ignorant individual going to achieve anything? Does it really make anyone feel better or shame the offender? What happens when your echolalic child, in the cutest voice chimes up with “fuck you douchebag” over dinner a couple of hours later? Behave like you have no social skills and don’t give a flying one what you say or do and you are doing nothing to dispel the myth that autism is down to poor parenting. You might have “given up on social skills” but I certainly have not. Point is, if you think it’s OK to choose to be rude and anti-social then that’s up to you. Don’t blame the fact that you have an autistic child for your arsey behaviour.
2. We’re not afraid to have a serious “meltdown” of our own.
See point one. Want the person who pissed you off and everyone within earshot to view you as the “crazy lady with the crazy kid?” then, go ahead, have your meltdown mamma.
3. We are sleep deprived and already defensive, and we spend all of our patience on our children, doctors, therapists, social workers and teachers, why would we waste an ounce of it on a total stranger?
So which is it? You’re not going to waste the little bit of energy your child hasn’t sucked from you or you’re going to have a meltdown? There have been plenty of occasions when I have felt horribly let down by professionals involved in the Pwdin’s life. I have taken a few people to task over it more than once. Some battles are still being fought but, you know what? Not every professional is an obstacle in our lives. Some have been a tremendous help and offered us a great deal of guidance and insight. Take Pwd’s ladies for example. There are times when I’d be lost without them and the teaching staff at his school are nothing short of marvellous. Perhaps you, too, might gain something if you didn’t discount people so off-handedly.
4. We have a far shorter fuse for nonsense as a result of our responsibilities but a FAR thicker skin….
Do “we” have a shorter fuse? I think I’ve become a far more tolerant and patient person since becoming a parent. I don’t suffer fools and am quick to address real issues that affect our family but that’s not actually having a short fuse. That’s being efficient. Every parent has huge responsibilities. Certainly, our autistic kids might need different things but don’t for a second believe that parenting any child is easy. Stop “othering” parents with disabled children. Also, if your skin is so damn thick, why the hell do you need to write these silly lists?
5. We can get you in a hold/lockdown position in less than 3.5 secs.
Boasting of your expertise in physical restraint makes me suspect you may not be a safe parent. There are times that a child may need to be removed from a scene for his or her own safety but physical restraint carries with it significant dangers every time it is used. If you think you’re that much of an expert in its deployment, that you are that well practised, I think you have serious parenting issues to address and I pity your child/children.
6. We can shoot you a look that would make a linebacker tremble in his boots!
So? Looks don’t really kill.
7. Chances are it’s been awhile since we’ve had a full night of sleep and that will give us a reason to plead insanity!
Trying to function on little to no sleep is horrendous. I know this. I experience this regularly and in very large part due to the odd sleeping habits of the Pwd. I’ve also been known to lose it big time at the slightest little thing when I’m in that state. It’s forgivable. Making “volatile” your default and planning your “get out clause” : not forgivable.
This point amounts to tacit threats and excuses for violence. Classy. In my partying days I could I have fallen back on the sleep deprivation thing? I would have had a hangover too so I could get away with anything, right? Add PMS into the mix and I could have gone on a killing spree and been out of jail for the next weekend of drinkin’ up and boogyin’ down. Stop blaming the fact that you might be a bit unhinged on your autistic child. Anger management might help.
8. Our tolerance and patience is for our children who didn’t choose to have special needs, not for someone who CHOOSES to behave inappropriately and is ABLE to control their actions.
You are someone who CHOOSES how to behave and is ABLE to control their actions but point after point of this stupid list is about you relinquishing responsibility for your behaviour using your autistic child’s existence as an excuse. Be an adult and grow up.
9. Wherever there is a cub, there is a mama bear….We’re always watching.
I’m not a bear. Can I be a flamingo?
I’ve seen a few versions of this list but took the one above to use in this post as it was the least repetitive (believe it or not). Since publishing this I’ve been told that there is a 10th point on this list.
10. We’re already angry at whatever gave our children autism.
That point alone could take up a whole post but I’ll sum it up, no “we” are not.