Here’s a question, which I have no definitive answer to, is it important for children to fit into our society’s social constructs and expectations? Sometimes I think “YES! It is definitely important” and other times I don’t know. Having an asd child who lacks a social filter and doesn’t fit into all situations has made me question this. Is it essential to smile politely at every passerby? Does it really matter what clothes your kid wears to school as long as they’re clothed? Does a child need to be kind to an adult who makes them feel uncomfortable or unsafe? Is it the end of the world to allow your child to be on local news with sharpie on their face? 6 years ago I would have answered YES! to all these questions, but now I have a different perspective both for my children and for myself. E orders his world with routines and rules that he memorizes. He doesn’t merely observe the examples of those around him then know how to behave, he needs to have rules and manners explained to him in a way he can understand then process that explanation before he will do it. For this reason, it is frustrating for him, and frankly futile for me, to give him extra rules of engaging in the world. It has taken months or years for him to understand the importance of following a rule of society like “we always wash our hands after we go to the bathroom.” I have had to whittle down rules and manners to those that concern health and safety of him and others. Yes, I get unsavoury looks from people,especially care givers who are trying to emphasize the rule I am letting slide, but on the whole I have found this practice very liberating. E’s questioning the status quo has made me think harder about society’s rules and expectations as well and some of the rules we follow don’t make any sense. Why is it important to greet everyone with a smile? I’m not happy all the time. The other person will not fall apart if I don’t smile at them. Or if they do fall apart, it is not my responsibility. Yes, generally, I do smile at people I pass because I like when people smile at me, but I have taken away the expectation for myself and (try to) allow myself to feel as I feel. Also, how important is it to the fabric of society that I always respond “good” when someone asks “how are you?” If society crumbles because I say “ok” or “you know what? I’m not having a good day today” then we have a weak society and there are bigger issues that need addressing. I am a full time care giver to my aspie/asd son and my almost 4-year old daughter (anybody have advice for how to survive the 3 and 4s because 🤪) and it is physically and emotionally exhausting. I am not always good. I am basically a hero because I keep getting up, getting dressed, and trying again, if I take a shower then, WOW, lookout world! I’ve been thinking that we have too high of expectations for ourselves and our kids. I’ve had to lower my expectations and though at times I snap and clean like a mad woman and dress perfectly, I generally feel better allowing myself and my kids to come as we are, even if that is exhausted and wild.
Society likes to point at individuals and tell them that they are the problem…. “You have a disability because you are not like us.” But there are social models that say the individual is not the problem because society disables people by not being inclusive to everyone. So if a person can’t physically walk up stairs or won’t sit still because they are anxious, it is not the individuals with the disability with a probelm, but society has disabled them for not creating physical environments and social norms that would allow individuals to be themselves.
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Thanks for that perspective, El. I’ve never thought of it that way.
As an adult who wasn’t diagnosed as being on the autism spectrum until I was 60 years old (yes, I’m an Aspie), I totally agree! It’s society the does the disabling.
Jenny, I couldn’t agree with you more!! I think I’m even further along the spectrum because so many of the things I’m supposed to teach bradley to do, I don’t want to do myself! I envy the fact that when he doesn’t feel like being social and someone is visiting, he says hi and goes back to his room! I often wish I could do the same! While I believe that there are many societal rules we all have to learn and follow, I also think many are not necessary and are essentially teaching people that it’s better to be fake to fit in than to be ourselves.
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I agree wholeheartedly!