Sunday, May 23, 2010

Repairing an Aspie Child

Recently, helicopter-type parents have found a new reason to feel sorry for themselves and victimize their children: autism. Television, newspapers and Internet journalists cater to their needs by offering endless advice on how to "deal" with their child's autism. Here, for example, you can read a very typical example of such an advice-filled article. Parents are told that there are many ways they can "repair" their broken children. They are told to drag their poor, miserable Aspie kids to all kinds of therapies, activities, sports teams, etc. As a 34-year-old Aspie, I almost had a panic attack while reading this litany of activities that any person with Asperger's sees as pure and undiluted torture.

The most shocking thing about such posts and articles is that they completely disregard the simple fact that autistic children are human beings in their own right. Nobody ever asks the question of whether these children actually suffer from their way of being. The parents are uncomfortable with an Aspie child. Ergo, the child must be miserable as well and in urgent need of repair. All the therapies aimed at socializing these children cater only to the needs of parents who want a "normal" child.

Why should we necessarily assume that if a child sits staring at the wall and rocking for hours, she isn't enjoying herself? I know I was. Why should we necessarily believe that if a child stays in his room for several days classifying the items in his herbarium, he can't be happy? I know I was. Why should we assume that if a person stays completely silent for two weeks they can't be having a blast? I know I did. The only people who are bothered by these manifestations of autism are parents who see their child as some kind of a project in need of being constantly perfected.

The best thing parents could do for a child with Asperger's is leave her or him in peace. Stop trying to improve their lives. Simply accept that they have a different vision of what constitutes an enjoyable existence. And who is to say that your vision of a good life is making you any happier than their vision makes them?


Pagan Topologist said...

Wow, this is beautiful! May I copy it and post it on my office door?

Clarissa said...

Of course, Pagan Topologist. I'm happy you like it. :-)

Anonymous said...

There is so much discussion of this in the popular sphere now that I wonder whether the term isn't misused somehow. I recently heard a PhD psychologist suggest that just plain poor social skills was Asperger's and I doubt it. When I was a child people would overuse the term "autistic" in the same way and they just meant people who were withdrawn or awkward somehow, often for good reason. Those kids would be told to have more social life, which was off base in more than one way.

NancyP said...

There are phenocopies of individual aspects of Asperger's syndrome. The diagnosis is based on possession of most of the many aspects of AS. I don't know if I have AS, but I have many features, and can empathize with kids who just want to be themselves.

Sometimes the best thing a parent can do is to tell the truth to the child. "Other children can be cruel. You will have to bear the rejection and mockery because you are different from the crowd. This will improve once you get older, because you can choose your friends and because many of the other children will grow up and not feel the need to go along with the bullies or the popular kids."

eric said...

I myself am an adult aspie (undiagnosed until a few years ago)in my mid-30's. I liken parents who try to "cure" their children's high-functioning autism to those in denial about their children's homosexuality. In other words, being an aspie is just who I am, and see it now as a unique way of being in the world.