Posted in Autistic Identity, Identity, intersectionality, Parenting

I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women

In Western culture, as women, we are expected to do it all.  We are expected to work outside the home full-time because if we don’t, we’ve betrayed the feminist cause.  We’re also supposed to be perfect mothers, raising our children in perfectly clean homes being fed perfectly balanced meals or we’re a bad mother.  When we get tired about all this and ignore our husbands, we’re bad wives.

The rules also tell us we really ought to be going onto school to get a degree, then an advanced one.  This will not only empower us, but we will advance in our careers.

But if we advance in our careers, who will care for our homes, children, and husbands?

In this way, women in general are overwhelmed in our culture.

[Image: a white, middle-aged woman sits with her head in her hands. She wears a red shirt, and has brown hair. She looks overwhelmed.]
But let’s add Autism into the mix.

As an Autistic mother of an Autistic child, I had a lot of problems when I dragged my kid in public because that’s what you do.

I worried that he’d run around.  I worried he’d run away.  I’d worry people were judging me because of my kid and whatever it would be that he’d do.

And I’d get insanely pissed off at things like how the library has all these self-checkouts which are supposed to be “helpful” but unless you have a kid who wants to help you check out books, you cannot both mind a child AND do your own checking out.

Unless you let watching the child go.

That seems to be the path neurotypicals around me were taking.  They just figured, they were kids and they’d do what they did.

Of course, their kids running around doing whatever they want annoyed me, giving me sensory overload, while I was trying to manage my own son’s sensory overload because of their kids running around causing all the drama.

But for some reason they didn’t ever seem to worry about what people thought about their kids running around like little monsters.

They didn’t seem to, or have to, worry that someone might come to their home to take their child away because their child was being raised by a Disabled parent.

That is a thing, you know.  In some states simply being Disabled is enough for child welfare to take your kids from you.

And they could move on after the wretched experience at the library and not obsess over it, thinking and planning about how it would be better the next time if I only…

See, one of the gifts-that-can-be-a-curse about Autism in women is we’re super-empathetic.  Many of us can literally sense all the feelings around us and we cannot shut them out.  You know all the old people at the library by which I mean all of the adults who do not have kids with them?  They’re all judging you because you’re not minding your kids and letting them run around.

We feel that; neurotypicals shut it out.

Unfortunately we also obsess over things: we plan conversations for hours before we have them, and we mull over things that happen to us over and over again, trying to figure out what it was that we did wrong.

Because we learned a long time ago, that WE did wrong.  It’s always us.

Continue reading “I Can’t vs. I Don’t Want to: How the Expectations of Being Female Smother Autistic Women”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Parenting

The Mother of Privilege: Greenlighting Eugenics Through Mama Drama

[Image: A scientific dropper pours black images of people from a dropper with greenish water into a waiting blue beaker; many other test tubes are lined up, and empty, in the background.]
In Autism circles, we talk a lot about the Autism Mother.  Typically, this person writes a blog and/or publishes posts on Facebook or Twitter to tell anyone who will listen about how his or her child was robbed from them due to Autism.  Many of them insist it was the MMR vaccine, but others, who feel a bit more enlightened by science, are taken in by the Autism Speaks mantra about how Autism is a growing epidemic.

An epidemic that must be stopped at all costs.

For some background on why we get irritated with the Autism MomTM  syndrome, visit this link to learn more about the Autist who created this term and why we take issue with these moms (or dads).

See, part of the reason why we get annoyed by these parents is because they make the narrative always about them.  When you’re a parent, though, isn’t it supposed to be about your kid and what he or she needs, and not about what you as the parent needs?  But for some reason, society allows this inverted family structure to continue: mom’s life sucks because of her child’s very existence.

You don’t get to do that with other issues without someone doing a PSA about it.  I vaguely remember they do Public Service Announcements about not emotionally abusing your kids that are basically just this narrative: children hear you; don’t hurt your children by what you say.  The words “I wish you were never born” come to mind…anyone else remember this ad that used to play?

Anyway, despite the fact that we’ve been told for years that this emotional abuse through words is wrong, for some reason, society gives these moms a “pass.”

And the thing of it is, the longer they whine and complain and are given all sorts of pats-on-the-back about how hard their lives supposedly are…that’s when the Eugenics monster shows up again, trying to pull us Autistics out of the gene pool so as to make neurotypicals’ lives better.

Continue reading “The Mother of Privilege: Greenlighting Eugenics Through Mama Drama”

Posted in Autistic Identity, School Leadership, writing

The Bend in the Road: Where to Spend My Spoons

[Image: A woods with tall, green, deciduous trees and the odd pine tree. There are two gravel paths before you.]
Thanks to those of you who had a peek at my creative non-fiction and fiction pieces last week.

For what it’s worth, Eleanor and Kate from the November 13 piece are central characters in the novel for which I’m currently seeking representation.  We’ll see if it goes anywhere.

However, I’m increasingly feeling myself at a bend in the proverbial road.  I see two options before me.  They can blend for now, sure, but in order to save my spoons I foresee making a choice, and quickly.

Continue reading “The Bend in the Road: Where to Spend My Spoons”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Parenting, Self-Care

Assistive Technology Can be Ugly: Focus on Aesthetics, not Bully-Potential, to Build a New World

The Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism recently posted a great deal on ear defenders (ear muffs, headphones without plug-ins) from Boing Boing at its Facebook group.  The deal is still there for a few days, and I snapped up 5 for my students at school.  By the way, leave and come back until they give you 10% off on your first order.  It almost paid for my shipping which was $9.95 on 5 of them, the maximum it would sell me at a time.

[Image: Those big, bulky but effective and ever-prevalent ear defenders from 3M. They’re oversized and yellow. If your head is large, they might not work since they’re not adjustable, but they’re reasonably comfortable. But they are bulky. And that yellow makes SURE people can see them on your ears. But heck, they work and Amazon can get them to you quickly.  We have two pairs around here.]

Anyway, some “helpful parent” was complaining about how ugly and bulky they are and that it’s basically license to get your kid bullied as a result.  Later, she said, not realizing I was trying to help her not come off as a jerk, that there would be plenty of times it would be “inappropriate” to wear these headphones because of the bulk.  She kept silencing the voice of 1) a more experienced Autism Mama than her (me; my kid is clearly older) and 2) MOST importantly, an ACTUAL AUTISTIC PERSON.  Yeah, she’s new to this game.

She kept backpedaling to defend herself, rather than realize she was normalizing a systemic problem with society rather than focusing on her child’s needs.

Here’s why she’s wrong and how you can make the same point without enabling bullying or accepting the cruddy world we all of us are forced to live in.

Continue reading “Assistive Technology Can be Ugly: Focus on Aesthetics, not Bully-Potential, to Build a New World”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Parenting

Why “You Do You” is Not Okay When it Comes to Vaccines

[Image: A white, male medical person in blue scrubs with a stethoscope around his neck brandishes a vaccine at you.  He’s got white gloves on and is like a scary-funny boogeyman.  He’s going to “get you” if you don’t watch out!]
Every so often in Catholic circles, you get the mom “helpfully” posting the link of the vaccines which have as a source aborted fetal tissue, or so the argument goes.  They claim you cannot vaccinate your child with that version, and that since there isn’t a great MMR alternative, you should never get that.

I completely and fully respect the parent when it comes to decisions about whether or not to vaccinate.  I believe the parent, not the government, should decide on what is best for his or her own child.

However, let’s take that stance apart a moment.

I believe in parent decisions because I am a Catholic school principal and I believe that if the government could, it would shut down my school.  We have had to fight for our right to exist as a school, and there are even Supreme Court decisions that are involved in a parent’s right to educate their own children as they see fit.

HOWEVER, there are also court decisions regarding whether you can force others to listen to your opinion, whether that opinion be well-reasoned, or, well, kind of nutty.

And you can’t.

Here’s the exchange that was ticking me off today:

Continue reading “Why “You Do You” is Not Okay When it Comes to Vaccines”

Brief Update on the Agent Pitch

Regarding yesterday’s post on missed opportunities:

Guess whose pitch went well enough that the agent, looking for authentic female voices who also has background in working with Autistic children as a volunteer…greenlighted this person to send her the full novel?  Not chapters.  Not an outline and a chapter a two.  The full novel?

(This is agent speak for: this particular project, I really do want to see and I’m not on the fence about whether or not I want to see it.)

She seemed very nice and nurturing enough (she literally said she doesn’t like to give up on an author if she keeps believing in him or her, even if they have to change direction sometime) that she might be a good fit for me.  She also seems to be kind and gentle enough that she might have actually developed relationships with editors in such a way that she stands out.  I know New York can be rough; a Midwesterner selling a Midwestern book (she’s sold to all the majors) might be a welcome contact for them in terms of being treated pleasantly, but firmly.

It’s early, and the actual book might not be a fit for her, but I felt blessed to even move to the next step.

This time, I know we moved forward because of my Autism, and not in spite of it, since we spent quite a bit of time talking about what adult Autism looks like and how it can manifest in the novel without completely revealing itself.  There is something quite beautiful about that.

 

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, writing

Missed Opportunities: Why I am Underemployed

I’ve mentioned, before, that I’m doing a job for which I would be paid at least triple what I’m making now, with full benefits when I now have none, if I could work in public schools.

I’m not unhappy I landed in Catholic ed., but even then there are different types of Catholic school jobs.   I’m meant to lead the outcasts.  On the plus side, we are the only school in town that would be actually making a difference because we are arming our kids to move into the middle class and self-advocate.  We take the time to find the right place to succeed.

But on the other hand, the lack of compensation and access to health insurance at a better price than on the health insurance market (our premium just doubled, and we were struggling to afford the price that it was to begin with) is stressful and takes its toll on my health.  Among Autistics, this problem is somewhat normal as many of us are underemployed.  We can find a job, but it’s the best we can do since the primo jobs are saved for people who can navigate the social structures better than we can, so we continue to struggle.

Here are times I had chances at better jobs, but simply couldn’t land them.

Continue reading “Missed Opportunities: Why I am Underemployed”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Identity, Neurodiversity, Parenting, Teaching

We Know Our Own: How Being Steeped in Autistic Culture Can Help You (Or Your Child) to Finally Feel Better!

A parent of a former student called me to check in.  He’s had a hard time since he left.  I agreed to talk to the psychologist about our experiences with him.

I can’t reveal too much (as usual!) about the details, but suffice it to say, if I believed in functional labels (high-functioning/low-functioning), I would say, absolutely, that he was a “high-functioning” Autistic.  He’s been skilled at masking his Autism since he was in a tiny school until this year, and as the demands of moving into the tween years get harder, he’s struggling in and out of school.  He’s one of those problematic types who is both academically gifted and Disabled, which the public schools have historically had a heck of a time with.

The psychologist was not impressed with my observations.  I suspect she will discount them, not recognizing what it looks like to be an Autistic who does not have “Educational Autism” (fancy language in schools for “too good at school to get help”).  Without a corresponding academic struggle, he will not be diagnosed and they will continue to wonder what’s “wrong” with him.

But I know him.  I knew him last year, and I also knew that his mom wanted him to stay with us this year since she knew he was finally, finally making progress both academically and socially.  He struggled at school for years not because he didn’t know all the things but because he lacked the executive function to turn materials in, or the impulse control to do what he was told.

He made so much progress he was three years ahead on standardized tests by the time I was done with him…in less than a year.

And yes, we were actually able to measure him on standardized tests; I’d reduced the stress enough that he was taking them seriously and able to focus on them.

Lest you think I’m bragging about being a miracle worker, let’s be perfectly clear: I didn’t DO anything…but I let him be himself and reduced his stress levels.  I removed the meaningless hoops of homework for the sake of homework and requiring my kids to sit in a desk, not move, and not talk.  And I listened to him, and argued and debated with him.

I treated him like a human being.

Continue reading “We Know Our Own: How Being Steeped in Autistic Culture Can Help You (Or Your Child) to Finally Feel Better!”

Posted in Autistic Identity, leadership, Self-Care

Masking, Anxiety, and Other Everyday Woes of the Autistic Woman

I wrote a piece yesterday that I set back to private regarding a parent-student interaction thing.

I walk a tight line with confidentiality and trying to help inform other leaders about Autism in education.  I think I was alright with that post, but if I get “outed” by identity, my school is so small, each player in that post will be instantly recognizable.  That’s not okay.

While that post gave me some good feelings because it helped me to justify why it will be okay whether the child in question stays or leaves, I have spent all of today in Autistic overload due to anxiety.  I don’t think it’s because of the post per-se, but because of dreading the follow-up conversation with a neurotypical parent which will happen tomorrow morning.  As a Catholic institution, we remember that parents, not schools, are responsible for their own parenting decisions.  It is his mom’s right to do whatever she sees fit, and I do applaud that right because I profit from it as a parent of a homeschooled child.

But as an Autistic who lives with anxiety as a “normal” fact of life, the implication that I know less about her child’s neurology than she, herself, or the neurotypical establishment doctors know, hurts me, too.  (By the way, Autistics, for “fun” look up anxiety symptoms…you’ll probably find you live like this ALL THE TIME.  It’s actually NORMAL for you, so you don’t think these are actual conditions neurotypicals do NOT experience all the flipping time and if they suddenly do, they ask for help.  Who knew?)

Here’s more on anxiety and masking: the endless cycle.

Continue reading “Masking, Anxiety, and Other Everyday Woes of the Autistic Woman”

Posted in Advocacy, Autistic Identity, Neurodiversity

Difference or Disability?

When you talk to people in the Neurodiversity movement, one thing may stand out: Autistics may tend to focus on what we do well rather than focus on things we do not do well.  This makes one wonder whether Autism, ADHD, Dyslexia, Dysgraphia, or other brain-based differences are actual disabilities.  So, let’s talk about that.

Continue reading “Difference or Disability?”