Posted in Autistic Identity, Parenting

Empathy and the Autistic: Learning the Words to Match the Feelings

While this post is from my archives and happened about a year ago, other than the fact that my husband no longer works with many neurotypicals, this post is effectively still true.  Hope it helps someone!

Funny thing happened that got me thinking.  Technically, a pair of funny things, close enough together for me to notice this.

Empathy is a skill people are somewhat overtly taught as a way of telling people you care about them.  This empathy thing matters a LOT to neurotypicals.  I remember learning about it in the (quite fabulous) book How to Talk so Kids Will Listen and Listen So Kids Will Talk by Faber and Mazlish, which can ordinarily be quite helpful.  I say ordinarily, because a lot of people are neurotypicals and expect this.  Or, they’re Neurodivergent types like me who have been socialized to believe that this empathy stuff indicates caring.

 

[Image: Book cover of the Faber & Mazlish book. It’s yellow with two conversation bubbles on it]
My husband’s boss recently tried to empathize by telling him that she got “anxiety,” too, and my teacher tried to empathize by saying everyone hates construction and driving in the rain in the dark.  Well, yes, these are true facts, but they disregard our Disability as no big deal.  I get that commonalities are a way to bring us together, but if you’re actually saying the panic you get from driving in the rain, in the dark, will stay with you for hours upon arriving home, rendering you potentially unfit for work in the morning, okay, you get it.

But I suspect that’s not what you meant.

But it wasn’t my teacher, or my husband’s boss’ fault.  This is what we’ve all been taught to do: to focus on what makes us same.

This comes along with the idea of “empathy” where, even if we can’t sympathize (know what someone else is feeling), we can try to imagine ourselves in your shoes and go with it.

After coming to terms with my Autistic self, I realized that I don’t really give a damn about empathy (or even sympathy) because both assume that my FEELINGS are what I want validated.  I know that feelings are feelings; they are neither right nor wrong; rather, they just are.  This is the post in which I unpack empathy.

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Posted in Advocacy, Parenting

Megaphones, Not Warriors: The “Autism Parents” We REALLY Need

 

[Image: The monument of Motherland Calls in Mamayev Kurgan memorial complex in Volgograd (former Stalingrad), Russia.; the statue is on a hill of green grass; it’s a woman with a flowing toga-style dress reaching one arm back. The other arm is raised to the sky, with a sword. The question is, is she asking her followers what they want to do or telling them?]
This piece is from one I published last fall or winter.  The words I wrote then are even more relevant to me as I work to create a school for people like me (and Disabled people not like me).

 

When you talk about creating a school that’s inclusive, you get nay-sayers talking about people pulling knives on kids.  Yes, I guess that’s a risk, but I see us more as a sanctuary for people who have been victimized by other educational alternatives.  You know the type (many of you ARE the type!)…someone made you sit in a chair at a desk and you hurt so much you couldn’t focus on your work.  You’d rather stand or sit or lie down or whatever, but that wasn’t allowed.  Or maybe you have to move, just a little bit, and you just need someone to help you find a movement that doesn’t distract others while it helps you to focus.  Or maybe you learn at a different pace, faster and/or slower than the norm.

But the worst group are the ones who insist kids need to live in the real world sooner, than later.  They need more kids around or they’ll get worse.

Without revealing too much, I lost a young teen this way quite recently.  The so-called experts said he needed more kids.  The so-called experts aren’t Autistic, nor do they have ADHD.  I do.  I know him better than they ever can.  He needs more kids around the way a fish needs to take a walk on land.  Maybe he will in the future, sure.  But he needs for now to love himself so much that he can self-advocate and thereby choose his society and advocate for what he needs for himself when he is ready.  Anyway, I don’t blame his parents.  They’re scared.  Experts scare people.

I will note that he, himself, seemed to want to stay with us, which was support for my opinion.  He was worried about leaving my school and what would I say, which was sweet.  Had he himself said he wanted to try this, I’d tell him hey, let us know if you need anything!  We’ll be here praying for you so you can have a great school year!  But he didn’t, and the mom didn’t, either.  She was afraid, not excited.  She was afraid.

That’s part of why I wrote this piece, too.  Warrior Moms have a source and so often they’re bad experts, and the real underlying motive of an Autism Mom isn’t narcissism (though it often looks like that for many layers…), it’s fear.  These experts who make money off of our suffering are the real problem.   Here’s a repeat of that post where I explored more effective parent advocacy.

 

It’s popular for parents of Disabled children to proudly call themselves “Warriors.”  Common usage in the Autism community is “Autism Mom” or “Autism Dad” or “Autism Warrior Mom” (etc.).  And I get it; I’m the parent of a Neurodivergent child, too, but in the Disability community, we tend to frown on this usage.  Let me unpack a little bit of the problem with this perspective and provide some tips for how you can adjust your thinking to be the best advocate you can be.

 

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