Dear 'Autism mums', I'm sorry
When I was first diagnosed as autistic in 2017, I started connecting with the online autism community. I found great comfort in the #actuallyautistic tags across social media platforms. I saw myself in other people’s comments and, for the first time, felt less alone in my ways. I distinctly remember relating to a comment about how putting gloves on made it hard to hear. The downside of knowing I was autistic and exploring that online was some very vocal ‘autism mums’.
For a long time, it was only mums that I saw this behaviour in but more recently I have seen ‘autism dads’ too, so it is by no means just a mum thing. These were the first kinds of comments I came across and they were the vocal ones. They stated how their child had ruined their life, that they wanted a ‘cure for autism’, that their child was broken. These kinds of comments hurt me; I would cry at their impact.
Still today, as a proud autistic, a few minutes on the #autism posts on twitter and I’m feeling thoroughly defeated and seeking comfort from the #actuallyautistic posts. However, since starting this blog, running the website and engaging with so many parents of autistic children, I know I was wrong to judge all parents of autistic children like this. I had done what I so passionately disagree with, I had tarred a group based on a very vocal minority. I have had discussions with parents that warms my heart, almost daily. The article I did last week on autistic children’s mental health was welcomed by parents wanting to support their children, the volume of mood card orders amazed me.
I should have known better because I know two parents of autistic people that are incredible. My mum and stepdad, parents to myself and my brother, Jenson, who is also autistic.
This weekend we were all supposed to go and see Aladdin at the cinema, we were all excited, Jenson included. Sunday morning Jenson had a meltdown when asked to get dressed. He had been on half term and was due to go back to school on the Monday, so we knew why he was struggling. Mum asked him if he wanted to still go to Aladdin that day or wait until he felt more up to it. He replied he would like to stay at home that day and watch Aladdin another day.
I looked at mum amazed. She had completely read the situation and realised Jenson needed a safe space. Parenting an autistic child isn’t easy, but 9 times out of 10 it needs patience and kindness. You can’t go much wrong with those. I know that Jenson and I are incredibly lucky to have the support of parents trying so hard, and I know there are so many other parents also doing that.
Please take this article as a formal apology to parents of autistic children. I know there is a divide between autistic adults and parents of autistic children, I wish there wasn’t. We are so deeply hurt by the minority of the parents that are outright cruel to us, that it is hard for us to lower barriers to the ones who are incredible.
I struggle to connect with parents of autistic children because of worrying about the ‘bad ones’. If you know of any autism parent blogs that are respectful and supportive, or run one yourself, comment on my social media posts of this article and share them with me!