As I'm very busy doing nothing on Spanish beach (totally bragging), I'm upcycling an old favouite from a previous blog.
This was first published in Sept 2015.
This was first published in Sept 2015.
It's rare we achieve any meaningful change without having to navigate some form of conflict, so one of the reasons I'm such a slow learner is that at the first echo of gunshots I'm heading for the hills faster than you can say Dalai Lama.
One reason that I'm grateful to have Autism in my life is that it has challenged, with relentless patience, aspects of my life that I would otherwise have left as resolutely unturned, unchallenged stones.
Autism is a fierce teacher who does not do comfort zones.
This morning I read an intriguing book review of 'NeuroTribes' by Steve Silberman discussing how a strength (such as intense focus on a narrow range of interests) can suddenly be perceived as a pathology (perseveration) upon diagnosis with Autism.
Now, having spent 15 years dreading parent-teacher meetings, knowing my oldest (neurotypical) son's attention span would be compared (unfavorably) to a fruit fly's, I thought it was great that I had a kid who persevered on the same phonics game on his vTech (btw, my oldest son is doing really well for himself... conforming to academic standards doesn't bring out the good stuff in everyone).
He knew the alphabet backwards, forwards, upside-down and inside-out at the age of two, long before he even had speech.
I thought it was great.
So when someone came along and said this is "not normal" I wanted to commit acts which would conclude with the need to hide a body.
But are we stomping on a huge amount of potential by medicalising what could be a game-changing strength?
By "fixing" their perceived defects are we doing the educational equivalent of telling Usain Bolt "Listen hot-shot, your super-fast running is a bit freaky so we're gonna break your ankles".
There are many thought-provoking arguments in favour of embracing all aspects of neurodiversity. This movement has (shamefully literally) taken special needs out of the darkness and makes the world richer by teaching us that people with special needs have a lot to contribute to society, and can make the world a better place.
People who have Autism often argue that to"fix" their Autism is to destroy a part of who they are; that their ability to perceive the world differently is their very strength.
There is a very real danger we are hobbling generations of potential artists, innovators and world leaders by gently battering their differences out of them.
This I get.
But the conflict is that to remain entirely academic about embracing neurodiversity, and to respect Autism by leaving it untouched and uncorrupted, is to condemn our children to remain fearful, angst-ridden, shit-smearing, violent, vulnerable, malnourished, marginalised human islands.
While some people on the Autism Spectrum can identify, overcome and capitalise on their differences, most can not.
Without Speech Therapy, Occupational Therapy, behavioural education and a shit-hot education, Finian would still be a non-verbal, self-harming, nappy-wearing, mother-beating, sand-eating screaming ball of fury.
Now he is only some of those things, some of the time.
The rest of the time he is a cuddly, funny, energetic, bright, willful, glorious little boy who is loved without measure and lights up the world around him.
Is it not possible to cherish the positive aspects of Autism while working on limiting the traits that make life suck?
Surely this is not disrespectful to the autistic individual, and is actually just what we do as parents, whether raising special needs kids or neurotypical kids.
Throughout my life I have spent many happy hours torturing my sister Mary about being a professional fence-sitter. "Get off the fence and pick a side!" I'd yell while dismembering her Sindy dolls and drawing stubble on her Michael Jackson posters.
Now I'm beginning to see the wisdom of her ability not to be immediately polarized by a given issue and to be able to consider that there are usually many aspects to the same situation., and that none of these points of view are wrong...they are just different.
Not that I'll ever admit this to her, of course.
The hope of a bit of middle ground might be all that is needed to make room for everyone.
And Michael Jackson looked great with stubble.
|My sister sitting on the fence. True story. |