This blog isn’t an “autism parent” blog. I use this site as a place for my own catharsis, and for information- and experience-sharing. Nevertheless, I am a parent, and that part of who I am will, at times, feed into what I think and feel, and, thus, what I write about. I am also an autistic parent, and now my family has new knowledge.
Two days ago, my four-year-old daughter received – as I did, two months ago – a formal diagnosis of Autism Spectrum Disorder (deemed synonymous with Asperger Syndrome). Like me, she’s #actuallyautistic.
Unlike many parents of autistic children, I do not feel a hint of “grief” at this news. We had a feeling; we did research (in my case that very intensive, exhaustive, and in-depth research that comes of being someone of my neurotype); she had an assessment; and our feeling was confirmed. This is who she is. She is both wonderful and annoying, just like all four-year-olds. And being autistic is part of her identity, her personhood; it always has been. We’ve not been robbed of anything.
Do I feel an added pressure? I share a similar neurological profile to my girl. Am I then to be her primary mentor? Well, I am her mother.
We are alike in so many ways. So often I see myself in her. And – as it would be for any parent whose child is, to some degree, like them – this is a double-edged sword.
It’s all too easy for us to live vicariously through our children, or try to turn them into “improved” copies of ourselves – foisting our own interests upon them at the first vague hint of curiosity; drilling them to do better at something at which we feel we missed the mark.
She has received her diagnosis, thirty-two years younger than I received mine. Her life, and her knowledge and understanding of herself, will inevitably be different.
But then, of course her life will be different.
Because she’s not me.
Like all children, she is her own unique and beautiful self.
I will have insights into some of the ways she thinks and feels that some in our family do not share. I’ll be able to put myself in her shoes in a way that others in our family cannot do. I might be able to explain things to her in a way she can understand, better than those around us. And I can provide insights to others that might help them to understand both of us a little better.
Because autism is intrinsic to who we both are.
We also have the many layers of identity, circumstance, experience, and personality. No two people are the same, and she – like her brother – will also learn so much from others around her.
It’s wrong of me to think I would ever have all the answers to how to be a parent, just because I share the same neurotype as my child. Just as it’s wrong of any parent to refuse to try to understand a child who is fundamentally different from them. Whoever we are as parents, whatever our neurotypes or those of our children, we must allow them to learn from us, and we must also learn from them.
I’m just glad she has that chance of self-knowledge, and the opportunity of support and understanding, at an age when these things can, potentially, make a positive difference.
So that she can truly be her own person, and – or so, at least, I hope – not spend a lifetime trying to be someone else.