I am the parent of an adult son on the Autism spectrum. While he was growing up he experienced many ups and downs. Now, as an adult, we can truly say he’s matured and developed into an amazing person - cognizant of others, motivated to have a meaningful life, and with sensitivity and empathy for the well-being of others because of so many of his own struggles along the way. He continues to need some supports but continues to be very adaptive and thriving. He is a truly caring person with unique abilities that we could not always appreciate or foresee when he was young and struggling.
He has unique abilities we could not always appreciate or foresee when he was young and struggling.
However, reaching this point to his adulthood was not an easy journey. Academic, social, and professional supports - despite good overall intentions - were often very lacking, inconsistent, and in some cases down right discouraging and disparaging. Although there have been some amazing supportive people along the way, the overall message our son received, whether sublimely or outright, was that there was something “wrong” with him that had to be “fixed,” and that he needed to change to “fit in” to be “normal” like everyone else. The residual message we received was that he was either “difficult” or impaired. This left us with worry, despair, and at times, hopeless. We were often unclear what strategies or supports were best suited to help him struggle less and help him be more accepted.
The message he sometimes received was that there was something "wrong" wtih him and he needed to be "fixed."
I write this not for my son but for other parents who may be navigating these murky and unknown waters, fearing the unknown about what lies ahead for their child. Many of our children are burdened by outside judgments with negative assumptions and constricted labels despite all the qualities and unique characteristics they may be capable of bringing to the table if given the right supports.
I hope children and families find more flexible and individualized supports that recognize uniqueness.
I hope for these children and their families more flexible and individualized supports and interventions that recognize their uniqueness rather than punishing or castigating them, and instead providing them with strategies they need to manage and mature in adaptive ways. As a society we need to look at ourselves and how we treat differences of all kinds, so we can all benefit from what others have to offer!