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I had a thought yesterday, one that is still peculating at the back of my mind. What if our whole approach to autism is wrong? What if being more autistic is the benchmark that the rest of society is working towards? Hear me out…
We are, as perfectly imperfect humans, a constant work in progress. As we grow, our understanding of ourselves and where we stand in society also evolves. As we develop and learn to find inner peace we go through the cycle of learning, trying to fit in, working on who we are to eventually discover that we can not be anything other than who we are. People will either accept us or they wont. Those that love us will continue to love us, faults, differences and all. We eventually discover that we have spent most of our lives trying to be something we are not to please people we don’t really care about.
These are things we tell our children aren’t they? Just be yourself, Love yourself, you are perfect just the way you are. You are beautiful. Why do you want to play with kids that don’t like you? As parents we believe that when we say it. Our children are perfect just the way they are, they shouldn’t have to change how or who they are just to fit in.
When does this change though? When do we stop believing the words our parents tell us?
When do we become someone who needs facebook memes to remind them to be who they are, to love them self. To be different, to be unique, that you are perfectly imperfect just as you are.
At what point in our life did we want to become a cookie cutter human? To fit in, to be just like everyone else, to spend most of our life trying to be something we are not, when logically we know that everyone is unique…
When do we become that person who fears, ridicules or demeans another for being different while we hide behind our own insecurities, yet teach our children to be themselves, that they are unique? Do we not see the irony?
I look at my son. He is almost 12. I think he is perfectly imperfect, a beautiful piece of art in progress. He is gentle, kind, accepting of everyone. He is content within himself. He is a proud autistic teen. He knows he is different, and he doesn’t care. He already knows that he can’t be anything other than himself. He doesn’t try to change the core of who he is, no matter where he is or who he is with.
My daughter is 8. I believe she is also perfectly imperfect, a beautiful, vibrant tapestry in the making. She is observant, vivacious, intelligent, honest, curious, talented, forthright in her opinions. Already, she is a fantastic 3 dimensional unique, engaging individual with aspergers… Until she is around typically developing people. Either consciously or unconsciously, she becomes a quiet flat 2 dimensional version of herself. She hides her stims, she becomes meek and shy. She is already trying to change who she is to fit in,to be just like everyone else and, as her mother, it breaks my heart.
I don’t think this is something unique to kids on the aspergers end of the spectrum, I think it might simply be part of human development.
Do I teach her how to be like everyone else, how to camouflage? In the short term she will fit in, but, in the long term, will she be a 38 year old woman, still trying to find herself?
Or do I teach her to be more like her brother. Proud, content, constant, unapologetic for who he is. Accepting of everyone for their beautiful imperfection, open to new experiences.
As that 38 year old woman, still trying to find and accept herself, I am striving to be more like my 12 year old autistic son. To find contentment with in myself, to be self validated, to accept everyone for their beautiful imperfection. To simply be me, not the “good daughter”, “good wife”, “perfect mother”, “autism advocate” 2 dimensional versions I wear as needed. Just me, unapologetic, sincere and honest.