I have always loved this poem by Robert Frost. I first came across it in high school, and while it is called The Road Not Taken, I’ve always thought of it as The Road Less Traveled representing the choice a person makes between a road less traveled and a road that is slightly more worn.
I’ve taken the road less traveled more than a few times in my life, sometimes unconsciously and sometimes intentionally. I’m sure many people could say the same.
One less traveled road that I took very intentionally was the path that I am on while raising my son. I very intentionally chose a more gentle, peaceful, respectful path. When he was identified as autistic, I was again faced with two roads diverging. I almost took the well-worn path – the one named intervention.
I walked that well-worn path for a few months before I became fatigued from all the therapy, and it occurred to me: if I was fatigued, how was my son – a young child – feeling. So, I stopped all therapy and took the road less traveled. Our home was completely free from therapy for a little while, and that gave us both a chance to recover. It’s kind of ironic that we needed to recover from therapy, don’t you think? After a while, I found an Occupational Therapist who respected my son as an individual, and she was happy to work with him once a fortnight. That was helpful therapy. There is a difference between helpful and harmful therapy, and I think it is important for more people to realise that that difference exists.
Because I was on a road less traveled, I walked alone for a while. It took a fair amount of time to find other parents who were making similar choices. But, I did find them, and now I don’t walk alone. For that, I am immensely grateful.
I have shared snippets of my life as a parent to an autistic child on Respectfully Connected. Recently, I shared my decision making process surrounding medication, and why I have chosen not to give my son medication. I expected that there would be a bit of upset about the post because there are strong opinions regarding giving children medication. What I didn’t expect was to be told that I was not entitled to hold an opinion on the topic, or have my bias questioned. I didn’t expect my choice of words to be analysed as though it was an academic journal article.
Because I didn’t want to get into a war of words with strangers on the Internet, I didn’t respond directly to those accusations, but I will here:
- I am perfectly entitled to form an opinion regarding the wellbeing of my son. That opinion is based on talking to other parents, medical professionals, and my own research and experience. It may be a different opinion to other people, but it is no less (or more) valid an opinion.
- I am biased as far as my son is concerned. I am acutely aware that my circumstances are not the same as other people’s circumstances. I know that my experience may not be relevant to others. I know that my perspective is biased. It doesn’t have to be un-biased when making personal decisions regarding my family.
- I can – and do – write academically. I don’t choose an academic style when blogging because I want my posts to be accessible.
But, I think those rather personal criticisms are based on some fairly inaccurate assumptions, and those are what I would really like to address:
- I do not choose to share snippets of my life with others for any form of validation. I parent based on trusting my own instincts, and I know that some of what I do will not work for everyone. I share these snippets because I want people to know that there are other options; that there are other perspectives to the dominant narrative of intervention-at-all-costs that surrounds parenting autistic children.
- I do not choose gentle parenting because it is easier. I choose gentle parenting because I was raised by ungentle parents, and I still carry the scars from their parenting.
- I do not choose peaceful parenting because I am afraid of conflict, and therefore I am an easy target for bullying. I choose peaceful parenting because I have been bullied, and I am strong enough to be peaceful with my child.
- I do not choose respectful parenting because I’m a pushover. I choose respectful parenting because I believe that my son is a human being who is worthy of respect and dignity – just like all human beings.
This week has been tremendously difficult on an emotional level – not because of my parenting choices, but because of my choice to share my perspectives on parenting. But, I hope that maybe someone will read a post I’ve written and choose the road less traveled – because that really will make all the difference.