The Merriweathers on figuring out how to navigate a sea of feelings and information
Oh this post is wonderful. Thank you. It made me laugh and cry, I almost always choose option 2) “Laugh loudly until they back awkwardly away to another county.” But the idea of opening your arms wide and opening doors, making room for your child as they are, is fucking beautiful and true. My child is newly diagnosed as of age 11, and it explains so much and also nothing. He is the same kid with the same challenges and gifts. And I am unapologetically his mom. It’s not easy, though, like less easy than perhaps a neurotypical child might be (what do I know?) so yes definitely please take care of yourself, find community and comfort and support.
Likewise, I was prepared for this to be the usual scaremongering the internet is full of, and it was not! 😅
But I’d like to add one bullet point, which is: it’s always worth considering if you or your spouse might also be autistic. Plenty of adults (especially people who were socialized female) don’t get diagnosed until after their kids do, and self-diagnosis is considered totally valid in online autistic spaces because adult diagnosis is hard to access if you’re high-masking (and it’s really fucking expensive).
Figuring out that I’m autistic at 35 was weird, but also liberating. It made so many parts of my life make sense. And now conversations with my kiddo about autism are a lot richer - we can explore how our brains work together. Would highly recommend.
Thank you! I was a little bit scared to read this post, but it was affirming, and anti-ableist, and even spoke against ABA. Wonderful.
I really take issue with the advice that negative parental feelings must be dealt with privately, and I'm surprised to see it here on Evil Witches. Parenting an autistic child can be really difficult, isolating, and sad sometimes, and parents should be able to talk about their experiences without sugar-coating them. If someone feels adequately restored by alone time and a bath, that's great for them. If someone else needs to vent to a friend, that's really ok, too. I always find it kind of patronizing to be told to focus on the things I think are wonderful about my kids because 1) of course, I think they're wonderful, they're my kids, and 2) the wonderful things aren't the things I need support with. Some people's parenting experiences are just really hard, and some people will be caregivers for the rest of their lives. They may have to give up things that were important to them, step back from their careers, work into old age to support an adult child that is not independent, and then worry about what happens to that child when they die. It doesn't make them bad parents if they complain. They shouldn't feel ashamed to say they feel overwhelmed or depressed. Even when I see social media stuff I find cringe, I'm inclined to believe that parent is doing the best they can and needs validation and support they maybe don't get much of in real life. Maybe some parents are such saints they never feel the need to say a bad word that isn't covered by an NDA, but some of us are witches, and witches talk.
Lovely article. I think I would add that you shouldn’t be afraid to push back at “experts.” We’ve spent two years saying some variation of “yeah our kid isn’t like that” to therapists, teachers, doctors etc. when they give us some version of “autistic kids are like X.” And every time they don’t listen it’s a nightmare, every time they do, lo and behold! he makes significant progress on his goals!
FWIW, for parents struggling with the constant ABA push? In our experience, issue is that if you take out all the problematic parts (and I do think many therapists are trying to do that) and let it be child led and floortime based, ABA is just kinda dumb?. It becomes babysitting with a clipboard. It was pretty much a waste of time my kid could have used to color or watch Bluey.
(Now if you want to hear me get wound up talk to me about “feeding therapy”--a treatment that is necessary for a VERY small group of kids but now prescribed to every kid with ASD.)
I’d also like to plug an *incredible* resource for autism, written by autistic experts- embrace-autism.com. If you aren’t autistic, it’s great to get an inside perspective from autistic people. And if you are autistic, it’s super validating! Every autistic adult started out as an autistic kid, and understanding neurodivergence can help set your kid up for success.
As someone who has been recently going through this with my kid, this post was disappointing to me. I always read your ADHD posts, even though my immediate family doesn't have anyone with ADHD, because I enjoy both the tone of "we love these kids but sometimes we are exasperated" as well as the tips and tricks. I was hoping for something similar here, but sadly there were no tips or tricks. And in my experience, I actually see this narrative a lot on the internet, and it feels isolating and patronizing to be told over and over again that my feelings have no place here and actually I had better hide them away in a dark closet or I'm being a bad mother. Obviously I am extra sensitive and going through it all right now, but it's just not what I expected from Evil Witches.