Autism. ADHD. Sit still. Participate. Listen. Be quiet. Don’t talk so much about dinosaurs all the time. People aren’t going to want to be your friend if you “______.” Pay attention in class. You have to. You have to. You have to. You have to. You have to.
I have to say, the school district, classes, teachers, extra helpers, and services my child receives at PUBLIC school are AMAZING. Public. We don’t pay any extra. He gets things I couldn’t afford to pay for myself and would probably not have thought of. Everyone loves him, accepts him, and assists him.
It’s their job to make sure he’s able to conform to and fit in with society. (Really, it’s institutionalized learning’s job to do that for/to all of our kids…)
So I got confused… I believe my husband and I got confused. We thought it was our job to make him fit in too.
This gives me pause, because I don’t ever want him to not understand that due to his differences, he will face some challenges. I’m different, and I have challenges (re: bipolar disorder II). I am open with him about that.
It is so easy for us to want him to mold himself into something “easier to manage” at home, too. Avoid meltdowns, please be quiet, no we don’t want to talk about dinosaurs anymore, please stop repeating yourself, calm your body.
I’m not sure why it took me so long, but since I have been achieving some big progress with my own mental health journey of peaceful acceptance, it dawned on me that perhaps my son never feels totally accepted, even at home.
What really got me is that recently, when we’d have an argument, or he’d do something that was not okay (for any 9 year old child, not just an Autistic one, you know 9 year old boys are kind of turds, really), his eyes would well up and he’d say “I’m sorry for my Autism.” This is heartbreaking.
But what am I doing to challenge that his Autism is “bad?” How am I reinforcing that he’s a cool person, all on his own, his uniqueness, creativity, and mannerisms included in his awesomeness? And that he is also not wholly defined by his neuro-atypicality and is a complete individual without bounds and chains?
Last night I told him… I wanted him to stop holding back who he was at home. I wanted to hear those weird dino facts. I wanted him to wiggle and dance and bounce. I wanted all of him.
You know what? In those moments, he wasn’t Autistic. He was a 9 year old little boy and he said, “I’m happy, mom. I’m so happy.”