Posted in musings

parenting towards inclusion

Inclusion begins with honesty.

If I gloss over the differences between people, my child will be confused by the discrepancy between what he sees and what he hears from me, and will intuit that difference is something shameful, something not to be spoken of.

Inclusion begins with knowledge.

Last week we watched a friend’s three children for a few hours at our home, one of whom is severely autistic. One of his favorite things to do is to take things apart (things like Duplo creations)… which was understandably frustrating for Rondel, who is very particular about his creations and gets worked up if anyone even gets too close to them. They were building together when the inevitable happened, and when I separated them Rondel told me that he didn’t like his friend “at all.”

But when I explained to him why his friend was behaving that way – that his brain was developing differently and he was in a lot of ways similar to Aubade as far as impulse control and the kinds of activities he enjoyed – it made sense to him, and he was able to adjust the way he played to accommodate those differences. Having that knowledge helped him to more fully include his friend.

Inclusion begins with presence.

One of the reasons I offered to watch my friend’s children (besides the fact that she needed someone urgently at the last minute) was that I want my children to spend time with people who aren’t like them: people of different ethnicities, people with physical disabilities, people with neurodivergences, people of different ages. It isn’t actually inclusive to sit around and talk about equality and opportunity and diversity if you aren’t living it out by filling your community with all types of people. I want my children to know from lived experience that even people who face incredible physical and mental challenges are just people, with their own needs and preferences and personalities, with their own unique strengths and weaknesses and quirks.

Inclusion begins with me.

Because my attitude and my choices determine the environment in which my children grow up, I have to shape it into one of acceptance and love. This is not necessarily easy for my introverted self, but I believe it is critically important for the future of our society and communities for inclusion to become part of the fabric of our everyday life and personal relationships. It begins here, in my home and in your home.

Posted in information, musings

Autism Acceptance Month

Did you know? April is officially Autism Acceptance Month!

(It’s ok, I didn’t know either until this year. Really the only month I ever remember is Black History Month in February.)

But this year I plan to do something about it! (Not sure exactly what yet, in the offline world, although Chris Bonello of Autistic Not Weird has some good ideas here.)

You may have heard some of the larger autism groups promoting April as Autism Awareness Month, and as a result wonder why I am using the word “Acceptance” instead.

Well…

It is because when I search for “vocal stimming” to find out what forms it takes and how it feels to those who do it (since I do not share this aspect of Rondel’s behavior), the entire first page of search results is geared towards how to make the stimming behavior stop.

It is because the majority of websites that refer to stimming, outside of autism advocacy pages, do so in an incredibly depersonalizing way, discounting the significance of the behavior to the autistic individual and seeing only the oddity of the action in a neurotypical world.

It is because most people have already heard the word autism and know that rates of diagnosis are increasing. The “Awareness” part of the job has already been done!

It is because no amount of “services”, supports, or therapies for autistic children will be sufficient in the long run if society isn’t able to reshape itself to accommodate the autistic way of being – those children all grow up to be adults, after all.

It is because the neurotypical world will lose out on all the beauty, humor, and insight that can come from a different way of looking at things if it keeps trying to fit everyone into a single narrow acceptable mold.

It is because, one day, I hope that every child and every adult will have the freedom to be different – to be openly and proudly autistic, ADD, introverted, extroverted, etc. – without inviting bias or feeling shame.

And after all, autism does not involve a breach of the moral code. There are no objections I can think of to the existence and self-expression of autistic people besides the differences that may make neurotypicals uncomfortable or inconvenienced. Maybe if the neurotypical world could meet the autistic world with genuine acceptance and unconditional love (autists already bend their whole lives around neurotypical systems, after all), the two could create a greater whole.