Friday, August 28, 2009

My Parents

A lot of people accuse autistic rights activists of being against parents. Often it's assumed that we had bad parenting and are projecting our experiences onto others, or something like that. Well, I can't speak for other autistics, but I know that's not the case with me. I had good parents. In fact, I had excellent parents.
Throughout my school years, my teachers kept saying there was something wrong with me. My first school kept saying I had ADHD and needed Ritalin. In a later school, the principal figured I had Asperger Syndrome. So why wasn't I diagnosed until I was 15 and sought out a diagnosis myself? Because my parents didn't think there was anything wrong with me.
Not that they didn't know I was different. They weren't in denial, they knew I wasn't like most kids. But as far as they were concerned, that was a good thing, or maybe indifferent. How could anyone think that it was a problem for a child to be as smart, creative and original as I was?
A big part of it was that they instinctively knew how to create an environment that suited me. So when the teachers said 'she's defiant, she's this, she's that' my parents honestly answered 'she's not like that at home, what are you doing wrong?' And they were right - I acted the way I did at school because my teachers didn't know how to handle me properly. What really shocked me, when I got involved in autistic rights, was realizing that it wasn't my teachers' methods that were unusual, but my parents. You see, the mistakes my teachers made that set off my meltdowns and made it nearly impossible for them to calm me down - most parents of autistic kids make the same mistakes.
I suffered a lot in school, but when I went home, I went home to an environment that suited my needs. If my teachers had been the ones raising me, it would have been so much worse. I'm not sure if I'd even be alive now, considering that despite my parents' support, I was thinking about suicide when I was 10 years old.
But I didn't kill myself. I never even considered it as a serious solution to my problems. That's because I always knew things would get better someday. And do you know why? Because of my parents.
Firstly, my parents always told me that college was way better than school, and that my kind of mind would be an asset in college. So I could put a time limit on how long I'd have to suffer, because I truly believed that once I graduated grade 12, I could be happy. (Fortunately, I got to be happy before then, because of homeschooling.) But that wasn't the most important reason I had hope.
More importantly, I knew that not everyone viewed my differences the way the school did. The people whose opinions mattered the most to me respected me, and that gave me hope that others would as well. And I never thought the problem was with me, because I was fine at home with my parents. I figured the problem was with my school. And you can leave school behind, but you bring yourself wherever you go.
So the reason I'm in activism isn't because I had bad parents and think that all parents of autistics are like that. No, I'm in activism because I had wonderful parents, and I know how unusual they were. Most parents of autistics want to be great parents to their children, but they're nowhere near as close to ideal as my parents. And I'd like to show them how to give their children what I got growing up, because I know just how essential that kind of parenting is to an autistic kid.


Blogger cc said...

i certainly hope they read this! what a great gift you are offering them by helping others as they did you.

2:32 PM  
Blogger L. Mullan said...

I am amazed, yet not surprised. Possibly I am neither amazed or surprised at your ability to self-diagnose and seek understanding of your circumstances. Possibly it was the Aspergers itself that enabled you to know intuitively what others did not know about you. I have immense admiration for you, your strength, and your tenacity. I have learned from you. Thank you.

10:45 AM  

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