My Whac-a-mole Life To ‘I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers’ – An #AutismPositivity2012 Flash Blog Event

This post was originally published at http://www.whac-a-mole-life.com/2012/04/to-i-wish-i-didnt-have-aspergers.html and is reprinted here with permission from the author.

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To ‘I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers’ – An AutismPositivity2012 Flash Blog Event

***This post is part of a community-wide flash blog event, responding to an anonymous Google search for “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers.” Read more here: Autism Positivity Day Flash Blog Event.

To: I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers,

I am writing this because you could be my child. I am writing this because it  is my responsibility as a parent of a child on the autism spectrum to relay this message every day – so you will grow up to be proud of your identity. The problem is, WHAT IS THE RIGHT MESSAGE?

This question rips me apart because, of course, it pains me to see my children struggle against the grain every day. Of course, I want them to take pride in themselves and be proud of their identity. It’s true that being “wired differently” actually furnishes them with some very cool and unique attributes.

However, as their mother, I understand your plea. And you know what? I WISH THEY DIDN’T HAVE THEIR DIAGNOSES, TOO!

This sentiment is extraordinarily polarizing; some might even say it stigmatizes their existence. Of course not! It’s okay to lament something that makes one struggle, which we wish were different about ourselves. Every human being does it – whether it’s as mundane as math homework, athletic ability or hair color…or as magnanimous as your distress.

Psychologists tell us that struggles in life can foster resilience, a highly valuable attribute for anyone. Resilience might even make us live longer. But, seriously, nobody really WANTS to struggle. And watching someone you love struggle is equally as (or arguably more) painful.

If you’ve indeed arrived here wishing you don’t have Aspergers, you’re not going to fall for me telling you: “You are wrong. Autism is a gift.” (So are Dyslexia, ADD, Down Syndrome and everything else, according to a multitude of books on Amazon.com.) I celebrate differences. I embrace and learn from different schools of thought. But tell me, who, when expecting a baby, thinks: “I really, really hope this baby will have autism.”

Still, just as each person has their own eye color, certain innate strengths and skills, many also have autism. And their place in this world is as important and valid as any other person’s. I agree that the challenges you face are greater than some…but also fewer than others. That’s life.

I cannot validate or invalidate your concerns or expectations. For all of us, life is full of joys and disappointment, and each of us just must do the best we can with what we’ve got. I suspect you have worked harder on developing yourself than the majority. As I think about it, autistic children easily could emerge from countless hours of therapy and special needs services with a shattered self-image and belief that they have unacceptable “deficits.” I mean, imagine if we all worked as hard on ourselves as those we send to therapy week after week! The world might be a much better place; but we’d probably all suffer from low self-esteem.

Some might fault society for these feelings of inadequacy. No doubt, there is a widespread lack of awareness and tolerance for differences. But the part of autism that’s not okay is the part that spins my daughter out of control…or results in too many children drowning in lakes. I cannot accept that. I see that many on the spectrum overcome these urges, needs and drives as they mature, but “overcoming” anything requires strength, work and persistence. Every. Single. Day. I admire that.

My dear “I Wish I Didn’t Have Aspergers,” if you are not thinking this, I am: Why should you listen to me? How could I possibly understand the complexities of your despair. I am an autism parent; not a peer.

Well, I do hope that you have your own family, mentors or friends looking out for you, doing the best they can for you – like I try to do for my children. So I can assure you that, while this help might sometimes be misguided, it usually comes from a place of love and support. Please TELL the people making you feel bad what’s going on. As a parent, I’d want to know.

Remember, Aspies think very differently. Just as you might struggle to understand others’ motivations and feelings, they often are befuddled by yours. Please allow us work together to understand each other better.

If you do not have someone in your life who can fill that role, you must make that a priority. Start here. Click on the pretty button above and read all of these posts. I am about to do the same, knowing that the journey will take me through stages of agreement, disagreement, anger, admiration and education. Yet, I appreciate each post.

There has never been more awareness and dialogue around Aspergers and Autism than now. I am lucky, as a parent of a young child with autism, that I have access to a multitude of resources, ideas and support, including (and especially) amazing teens and adults on the spectrum willing to share a glimpse into their worldview. Since my daughter cannot speak for herself, they can – as much as any individual can understand another  – help me help her. Perhaps they can do the same for you.

Please continue searching, growing and connecting with others. And let us know what you’ve learned. Because if there’s anything we all can agree on it’s this: We all have a lot to learn.

“Knowing yourself is the beginning of all wisdom.” –Aristotle
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