Wow. I feel like I’ve let my team down–I was going to try and post every other day, this month. That is not going well.
However, I had forgotten that the kids are on Easter break, at the minute. I have been refereeing 2 high-needs autistic kids (most autistic people have high needs, to be honest–all I’m saying there is, my kids are obviously autistic in a way that makes it a little easier to qualify for support) and trying to do battle with an astonishingly bad cold + sore throat. (I’ve lost my voice, unless I talk in an unvarying monotone about an octave below my usual lower range… it’s great, I literally sound like a robotic dude who can’t show any emotion or alter my volume at all.)
My kids are wonderful. They really are, and I spend a lot of time these days feeling awful about all the times I invaded their privacy, by posting on the internet about their meltdowns and toileting needs and self-harm and other things. I didn’t know any better; I thought it was okay, because in so many cases, I was posting about my own childhood and adolescent struggles, as well. Even now, I probably go too far sometimes, because there is SO MUCH overlap between the way my kids are, and the way I was/am.
I mean, I was an adult before I learned how to make eye contact, and it still physically hurts, most of the time; I couldn’t put on my own socks until I was older than my “severely autistic” daughter, who, at age 12, can put her own socks on. My son (diagnosis of classic autism as well, but in the USA he would qualify for Level 2 Support, not my daughter’s Level 3 Support) uses zippers and buttons more effectively than I can. My daughter and I can barely sleep–my son seems to sleep fine. My son and I can speak, although we need some help being interpreted–my daughter is functionally non-verbal.
My IQ has never tested lower than 122 (self-test) and never higher than 145 (let’s split the difference and say it’s around 130, shall we?) and I have a first-class science degree from a British university, but I can’t walk outside alone because my social deficits have led to a lifetime of bullying and genuine fear for my own safety. My kids don’t cooperate well enough to test their IQs, and they currently attend a school which will, eventually, offer them the chance to get 2 or 3 A-levels (4 A-levels is roughly the equivalent of a high school diploma, in the States) but they are confident, excited people who have never been ostracised for being different, who fly out the front door and head down the street without hesitation if I say we’re going to the playground.
In short, our experiences are very similar, and also, very different. That’s autism, to be fair. We autistic people all have very similar, very different experiences and reactions. (Just like neurotypical people.)
For all that my kids and I have faced similar challenges and I *know* how rough being autistic can be, I hope they know how loved and amazing and beautiful they are. YES, being a parent is the hardest job on the planet; YES, autism brings its own challenges to the situation; YES, there are things my kids might struggle with less, were they not autistic; but I would not change my kids for anything. I hope they understand that, and I hope that when they are my age, they will love themselves the way I love them, regardless of their unique struggles.
Final note, summarizing the “who has it worse, me or my kids” question (which isn’t a good question anyway): it’s called the autistic spectrum for a reason–it is a spectrum–but it’s not linear. It’s more like a sphere, and we all have “high” and “low” points on it, regardless of cognitive ability. I am great with language (at least, written language and one-to-one conversation) but terrible at motor skills and perception, and somewhat bad at sensory filter and executive function. Rebecca Burgess has done one of the best graphics I’ve seen, which explains her “high” and “low” functioning areas… please, try to keep this graphic in mind, when thinking/talking about autism: