I caught up on my blog reading today after a week in which one of my sons needed a level of support beyond what is ‘normal’ even for our family. He continues to get the support he needs and the long weekend has offered the chance for a breather and some reading time.
The Autism Speaks video continues to generate discussion. Much of the response has been negative and with characterizations of the parents that included “whiny” and “selfish”. It’s been in these descriptions that I’ve noticed that something is missing. And before I go further, let me clarify that this post is about the video and the resulting discussion. It is not about Katherine McCarron’s mother.
The thing that’s been missing from the discussion is simple: compassion. Sure the video presented a view of parenting autistic children as particularly dismal. We observed the parents behaving in ways that seem very unsupportive of their children. Many have said that the parents need to stop whining and complaining and get over it because “that’s life.” I completely agree with the assessment that we need to take on life’s challenges rather than letting them get the best of us. However, we also need to recognize that life’s difficult times can include depression, loneliness, and feelings of helplessness that may even be called despair. It includes periods of frustrations, adjustments to those frustrations, and hopefully acceptance. Life dishes up these difficulties to all of us at different times, in different amounts, intermixed with the joy and the happiness. Its best not to judge but to count our blessings for being in a better place.
It seems reasonable that the producers of the video would seek out those parents who were at a low point in the cycle of ups and downs that life dishes out. Its those parents that would exhibit behavior that supports their message. Perhaps the parents were even encouraged to talk and behave in ways that were very different than they would off camera.
We know next to nothing about the parents in the videos other than they are struggling to deal with their child’s autism. My perspective of neurodiversity is that we need to allow room for those that are emotionally strained, people who pessimistic in their outlook, and even those that are whiny. The proper response is to be firm in our own convictions but also offer compassion, for both parent and child.
I know many parents of autistic children who have challenges far beyond mine. Some have spouses that are in denial and unsupportive. Some have families that lay the responsibility for the child’s differences at the parentâ€™s feet. Some have doctors and teachers that tell parents that the problems are all in their head. Many have yet to find a network of people that offer support and are instead surrounded by blame and judgment.
Over time, I hope all parents can provide the love and support that their children need. I also hope we can find compassion for each other during the times that we struggle.