Saturday, 18 June 2011

Are there advantages in being autistic?

We love our son and are thankful for him. We are proud of everything that he achieves and does. Our pride runs just that little bit deeper than a parent with a neurotypical child because we know that everything is so hard for him. Our relationship with autism is a complex one. While A was diagnosed at an early age and we have lived with this diagnosis for almost 9 years in an official capacity, it hasn't been easy to live with. Being on the less severe end of the spectrum A blends into normal society for about 40% of his day but the other 60% being perplexing, frustrating and alienating.

We are not, well I am not, one of these people who embraces her childs disability easily. I have let the reactions and the words of others get to me. I am not embarrassed by him or his disability but frustrated by the limits it puts on his life, his friendships and his development. I feel it too because I absorb the majority of the negative aspects of autism for him. I'm the one who deals with his lack of tact, apologising to children and adults alike for his frequent faux pas, his outbursts, his lack of awareness of others. The minute I suspect that someone is forming the opinion that A is a bit of a dick head, I intervene explaining away any slight that A may have caused that person, followed by an explanation of autism and its effect on him and why it causes him to appear to be inconsiderate. In order to make his experience of being an autist a positive one, I have hidden all of the negative for him which has made my experience of autism, largely a negative one. He tries not to let it bother him, he embraces his differences and relishes in the fact that he is not like everyone else. He doesn't feel peer pressure to dress in a certain way and doesn't let the thoughts and words of others get to him. I've been dipping my toes in the pool of ASD forums that there are out there in the wonderfully wide web and I'm trying to let it change how I view autism. I've found an amazingly inspirational movement called neurodiversity, of which I'll blog about in a while. In short, it is a type of thinking that embraces the differences that ASD brings and tries to foster an attitude of accepting that everyone is different, whether you are neurotypical or autistic.

Following the example of a few others out there, I'm trying to see the positive in autism. But it is hard, it is really bloody hard.Admittedly, all bar one of these posts that I read were written by someone with Aspergers or a parent of a person with this so there was very little information there to relate to or to derive some sort of guidance or comfort so far.

People who assume high functioning autism is like Aspergers misread the situation we are in. Aspergers is so completely different to autism. Aspergers often comes with high intelligence, overly rational thought, intense focus and despite its debilitating social aspects is much easier, in my opinion to view in a positive light. It is easy to celebrate something that once you have come to terms with your differences, enhances your mental capacity and facilities while having a devastating effect on your social skills. The variant that A has impairs his intelligence, makes him unable to focus and follow complex or lengthy instruction. It is a constant fight and I often fail to see the positives in this. So much of our experience and the therapies used to treat it are designed to make him fit in with normal society. Perhaps this is why we struggle to find the positive. The path ahead is a long one as we try to adjust our thinking about ASD.

How do you find the positive in your ASD diagnosis?


  1. Unfortunately, the path will always be a long one but that's why we, as parents of children with autism, need to roll our sleeves up and just get on with it. There is too much ignorance in our society and not enough awareness; despite constantly trying, people will never understand the complexities or differences between autism and aspergers. The reason why is because most experts don't even understand it. Support is out there but unless we are prepared to push through the barriers and knock down the walls, we are very much alone.

    Great post, very informative.
    CJ xx

  2. Thanks CJ. I've also recently read a post critiquing ABA which was how A was taught for the first five years and it's made me think. As great as ABA can be for conditioning them to fit in, the fact that it covers up their diversity is perhaps not the best approach holistically in the long term.

    I'm thankful for this blog where I can get all the negativity out of my system, while keeping a cheery expression by day for A!



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