A lot of parents with newly diagnosed Autistic children go online looking for help, support and to vent. In general, they will stumble upon three distinct groups in their search:
1) The "gloom and doom" of Autism $peaks, with its focus on research for cures, Biomed experiments on children, and ABA "behaviour modification;"
2) Supportive communities which focus on acceptance and respecting the Autistic experience;
3) An army of Angry Autistic people jumping down people's throats for not immediately "getting it."
While I am sure this post will ruffle feathers (and more!), I think it needs to be talked about. Being a parent myself AND sometimes being an Angry Autistic, I've been on both sides and can understand both sides.
First off, I'll address the parents:
I will explain, not condone or make excuses for, but help you understand why we're angry.
If you, as a parent, have ever joined an Autism community, said one thing and had it taken completely out of context and had everyone totally dissecting your words and telling you to check your privilege, then banning you from the community before you even had a chance to say, "what?" - then you know what I'm talking about. I've even had it happen to me. But before you get too hurt about it, please remember this is how us Autistics feel the vast majority of the time in the real world. We're misunderstood when we think we're doing it right and then totally shunned from groups. Isolated Autistics don't feel they can fight back. Put them in a group as a gang and they have power, and they will wield that new power with impunity. Does it make it right? Maybe yes, maybe no.
Another reason we're angry is quite simply because we've been abused. Whether our parents knew of our disability or not, we were abused at home for being different, abused in therapy for "noncompliance," and bullied and shunned at school. When you take a child and abuse them their whole childhood, not only do they not know any other way to deal with problems other than to be abusive themselves, but unless they have had access to a lot of good therapy, they will carry around the triggers and pain with them into adulthood. Actually, even with therapy and healing, some of us still carry the weight of our pasts around. It's not easy to shake off the ghosts of abuse. Some of us still find ourselves in abusive relationships or reliant on abusive people for our very care. Damn right we're angry!
A lot of us, me included, are still not always great at being assertive in a non-confrontational way. Again, none of this is an excuse for bad behaviour, but it can explain a lot of it. All you can do, dear parent, is protect your child from abuse and make sure you are raising a non-angry child. Make it your goal to raise a child who can advocate for him/herself and is happy to be who they are.
Also be conscious of the fact there is a lot of sadness in us - mourning for happy childhoods or families we never got to have. Sometimes things you bring up that you are doing with your child will trigger us again. Just be aware of what you're saying and who you're saying it to.
If you come asking for advice or opinions, please don't argue with us and tell us we're wrong. If you're not open to a different way of thinking, please don't ask us for our advice. If you don't agree, you'll need to sit and think about it, but don't argue with us. Take what you've learned, say 'thank you' and move on. Telling us our opinions, insight or experiences are not correct won't win you any points.
Don't play Devil's Advocate. I'm even guilty of this, since I like to try to see things from all sides, but it doesn't go over well with Autistics who are easily triggered. They will place you squarely in the evil box and you won't be able to get out. For people who are often accused of lacking emotion or care, we have lots, overflowing, everywhere. Maybe too much. So just be really clear about what you want to know and stick to the facts.
If you pity us, think about what you can do to help us. Or what you can do to prevent that happening to your child. Because we are like your child, whether you like it or not, but your child doesn't have to end up angry like many of us.
I plan to make another post addressing Autistic people who spend their time in groups and forums trying to help parents.