“Autism Parenting” – is there ever a more maligned phrase in the autism community?
If you’re not autistic, as I am, it’s not correct to use this phrase to describe the parenting of a child with autism.
I have learned so much from the voices of those autistic people out there, who have spoken of their experience with parents who took on autism as an identity, even if they aren’t autistic themselves.
Watch: Be a good mum. Post continues below.
Their point is, that even though we are parenting children with autism, and that can be hard and scary and exhausting, that the journey, the autism, actually isn’t ours as parents.
It’s a confusing divide to navigate.
So much of my experience in the special needs community, both online and in person, has been divisive and fraught, as well as being actually helpful and healing.
As voices of actually autistic people have been able to be heard more clearly than ever, through advocacy, through technology, through Facebook and Instagram and community, these voices are powerful.
They’ve been silenced for a long time, they have been told how to “mask” and pretend and how to fit in to society.
Naturally, a lot of actually autistic people are very critical of how parents of autistic children express and share their experiences online.
I can forget that when I talk about the difficulties I have in supporting neurodiverse children - that I am not just speaking of my experience as a parent. I am speaking of my children’s childhood. I am telling the world things that they may not want told when they are older.
Sometimes in the life of a parent of a child with special needs, there is chronic overwhelm, tiredness, self doubt, a sense of failure and anger at supports that can be invasive and parent shaming, hurtful and excluding - so many of us find ourselves in the gaps between the help that exists, and the help that will actually “help”.
I get frustrated and tired and acknowledge that I, along with other parents, can be offensive in the ways that I speak about my children.