I have recently become a fan of a Facebook page (yep, I said it I like somethings on Facebook and I will openly admit it) called ThAutCast it’s also a website for those who do not enjoy social media and do enjoy privacy.
This flow on information from both parents with kids on the spectrum and people with autism has taught me a truck load! I wish I had gotten this info earlier but potentially I would not have been able to digest it than so I guess better now than never.
I have been trying to force a mask on my sons face. I am outing myself to you dear reader because their is a chance you have tried to do the same thing! The revelation that attempting to “help” Bird act like other people was unkind and not respectful of the person he actually is or is becoming. Yes, he must be compliant and YES he must learn academics, apply those academics, be kind and considerate of others but NO he does not need to pretend to be “normal.”
Watching TV shows and than pausing to show the aloof, coy, flippant, attitude filled Disney actor around teenage years was a past time I engaged in with my son from time to time to show him “appropriate behavior.” Bird tends to be effervescent, slightly loud, emotional (quick to cry if something is sad and quick to laugh loudly if something is funny) and he speaks without a filter (though never in an unkind way or I would fix that).
Landon (who own/runs ThAutCast.com) and his readers and contributors have given me the pearl of wisdom that is Bird is still a person and his personality has the right to be different than other peoples. His sister is an UBER competitive sports and academic girl with no desire to dawn a dress or impress boys at 12. His brother is a computer nerd with the physical attributes of a linebacker (13 years old and 6’3″ with a HUGE frame) and NO desire to use it for sports. I have not tried to tell them how to act around others or engage with friends as I understand they are full formed in their personalities but I do not give Bird that same credit. He is barraged with corrective feedback about everything from the gusto filled laugh to don’t cry at sad movies or people will stare at you. He is told that his patterns of speaking sound weird but often times now I see the connections he is making and they are genius but different. Last night during therapy with Nick they were working on inference-ing (well done btw Nick) and Bird mid work asked if Nick had seen a TV show called Psych. Nick replied no and ask why such a random though to Bird. Bird knowing that this looked weird said,”Oh nothing, nothing.” Well only because I was cooking in the kitchen and overheard this exchange did I get that he had made a great connection but did not want to share because he has so often been told how weird or off topic he has been. I dragged out of Bird that the detective in Psych is just very observational and not psychic that he infers alot from his surrounding. Bird did not want to share this because it was more language than he is used to being rewarded for when something random (or an amazing connection) pops into his head! So we told him how smart that was and explained the value of giving people a chance to see your line of thought and if it’s salient you look brilliant…so don’t not think first and speak second if you have something to say and the timing is okay.
Here is some of that thinking between a girlfriend who also has kids on the spectrum and myself during a facebook messaging. She did give me her permission. (Sorry I rarely accept facebook requests but I put semi-personal info and kid pics up that I don’t want to share…I have less friends than most on facebook on purpose). I did change names for her privacy and she is a worship worthy mother as are so many I know these days!
Hey Shannon…I wanted to write to you earlier but just haven’t had a chance. I just wanted to say I’m glad you checked out ThAutcast — I love that site and it’s the only one I check every day. Being able to read autistic people’s first-hand accounts of their experiences and how they really feel about things we NTs do has been invaluable to me, and changed my way of thinking about autism. It has helped me work with my boys so much more effectively and appreciate their awesomeness even more. And they are pretty freaking awesome, I have to say. : )
Landon posted this today, which sums up everything I have been feeling in my heart about my kids but just haven’t had the verbal skills to say myself. This is his response to a video by Joel Osteen about overcoming challenges; the boy he mentions below is holding a sign saying “I will beat autism”:
“We all probably want the same things for the kid holding the sign that the person who made it does. We want him to communicate easily with others. We want him to learn and contribute and, eventually, to live independently. We want his life to be free from unnecessary pain.
But I don’t see any of those things as beating autism.
Because I also want this kid to accept and love himself exactly as he is. I want him to make the contributions only he can make. I want him to be a first-rate, completely joyful autistic person, not a second-rare imitation of a neurotypical person.”
YES YES YES. YES!!!!
Anyway…I just didn’t want you to second-guess anything you have done as a parent (which is what your post earlier this week sounded like to me…please forgive me if I”m wrong). You are an amazing, dedicated, super-smart, loving mom, and your kids are so lucky to have you. You and Kevin are great parents and have great kids! I think you’re pretty awesome. XOXO
Girlfriend, Your candor is lovely and I appreciate it as I find most people are not these days it seems to be more of a child like attribute instead of what we count on from our friends…honesty, anymore.
My admission of fault (you guessed right about my post) is the total lack of appreciate for his eccentricities for the more mundane/flat and boring affectation most people are/wear and love to present these days. While KAM and I are a more toned down version of Bird we also scream WEIRD/FREAKY and unconventional to most on lookers. Some have even daned to mention to our faces. Why would I not want my son to enjoy being original and free thinking without regard for conventional/boring and pedestrian people.
I am so incredibly prideful of my own lack of interest in being like others and KAM’s that I stifled Bird’s personality. YES, he does need to listen, attend and comply but NO he should not pretend to be like other people.
Other people his age these days for the most part SUCK! They are mean, back biting, social climbing, lack imagination, intelligence, treat each other like disposable wipes kind of people with maybe 5% being kids I think would someday grow up to be people he should tolerate well and 2% being people worthy of his friendship.
I have (not unlike you) dedicated $100,000’s on therapy and lack of employment to work hard on a kid who I wanted to wear a mask!!!!!!!!!!!!!! WTF, WHY WHY would I want him to cover up the kind/funny and loving guy he is??? WHY do these unoriginal people get to be his models?
NO MORE, I am awake and done with showing him TV shows and asking why he thinks people might think that kid is cool or watching the aloof or quick to turn their back kid and telling him to be like that!
So yes, I have shame and guilt for my ignorance. I am not the Borg anymore (to quote Star Trek…but I think you already knew that) and Bird does not need to be ASSIMILATED! He will continue to work on language and listening and academic like MOST kid should but not on pretending to think/act or be other people.
Yes, he wants to be accepted by other people but who wants people to like you because you are acting like someone else? He really will be less popular for this but people who like him (and there are kids his age as you know) will continue to like him and the rest were not good enough to be his friend anyway.
Sorry for the tear. Your Facebook page as well has motivated me to embrace who he is and who we are as you do. I am just sad it took me this long to get it.
Would you mind terribly if I used this in my blog?
She answered yes to the question above and I thank her for allowing me to share it!