Let’s ride the nope train {Day Three}

Welcome to the third day of our journey on the nope train.

I realise that this might be getting tiresome for some people, so I want to take a moment to explain why I’m doing this. I’m doing this for the parents of newly identified autistic children – the parents who are in the early stages of seeking support.

I know what it’s like to feel overwhelmed during that time, and then having to sort the good from the bad when it comes to Facebook groups and pages. I’m hoping that this journey of nope will help those parents in sorting out the good from the bad.

So, a recap of our journey so far:

On Day One, out of seven memes, five of them were a nope.
On Day Two, out of seven memes, five of them were a nope, and one was too obscure to tell.

All aboard the nope train!

Meme #15: It’s a nope
Image is a yellow meme with an illustrated person taking notes. Text says “Oh, you met one other autistic kid? Let me take notes now that you are an expert on autism.”

I get it. I get that you get unsolicited advice from “experts” all the time. These “experts” come in different forms – they may be other parents, or they may be professionals who are working with your child. I know it gets tiring and frustrating.

But the problem is that there is a dominant narrative that positions parents as the experts, and that is problematic. Who are the real experts when it comes to autism? The Real Experts are autistic people themselves. This is not limited to autistic adults either. Your autistic child also has expertise regarding the way they perceive the world; let them guide you in that.

Meme #16: It’s a nope
Image is a photo of a hand holding a tiny piece of paper. Text says “A list of people I trust to babysit my child with autism.”

I wrote about babysitting yesterday. If you don’t have people in your life who you can trust with your child, perhaps you need to find other people. Also, I just want to take a minute to address person-first language: It really sounds like the potential babysitter is using autism to babysit children, doesn’t it?

Meme #17: It’s a nope
Image is a photo of two children sitting next to each other looking at iPads. Text says “Kids with autism… Their idea of a playdate.”

Firstly, iPads are invaluable communication devices for many autistic people. This culture of shaming people for using technology is really ableist and awful.

Secondly, you’ve never gone to watch a movie with friends? You’ve never sat next to each other and stared at a screen together and called it an outing?

Thirdly, my son has neurotypical friends. We go to their homes and they come to ours. Sometimes, when that happens, they all stare at screens together. Either, they’re watching a movie or watching each other play a game. This is not an autistic thing. This is a kid thing to do. Some people might say children use technology too much. Guess what people? We live in the information age. Our children have access to technology that we didn’t have as children, but that is completely ok because they need to be able to develop information literacy skills too.

Meme #18: It’s a nope
Image shows lots of toothpicks on the floor. Text says “Ways in which REAL autism is not like ‘Rainman’ No. 1: “Lily, how many toothpicks did you just spill on the floor?” “Six.”

I’m sure that most people realise that Rainman is a rather inaccurately stereotyped representation of an autistic person. Some people may even be aware that the character was based on a composite of two people who were not autistic anyway.

Yes, we need to highlight that savant skills aren’t actually as common as people believe, but to reduce the value of a person’s life because they are not super talented in a specific area is ableist. In addition, to talk about “real” autism (which I assume is code for “low functioning”, is it not?) is really troubling. Functioning labels serve absolutely no purpose at all.

Meme #19: It’s a nope
Image is a light green meme with a bespectacled person holding their hand up. Text says “You might be an Autism parent if your child sounds like a college professor talking about mythical monsters but can’t tell you what happened at school that day.”

There are a few problems with this. I addressed the shaming of special interests on day one, but I would like to address an autistic child not being able to tell their parents what happened at school on any given day.

Sometimes, when questions are too broad (e.g., “What happened at school today?”), I don’t have a clue where to start. There is too much to tell: Which part of it would the person find interesting? Where do I begin? When that happens, I just resort to “nothing” because I really can’t figure out a starting point and I’ve learned that talking too much on one topic is frowned upon.

Ask different questions, such as:

“What was the best thing that happened today?”
“Who did you play with at break?”

Be specific, and you might receive different answers than “nothing” or “ok.”

Meme #20: It’s a nope
Image shows the Korean singer Psy walking with arms outstretched behind him and bits of paper blowing everywhere. Text says “Me leaving a therapy session when zero tantrums occurred.”

If your child is communicating their distress during therapy, then it’s not really therapeutic, is it? Therapy is supposed to help; it’s not supposed to cause distress. Of course, I realise that critics of the neurodiversity movement think that we don’t believe in therapy at all. Those critics are wrong. For more information, read this, and this, and this.

When choosing therapy, choose it wisely. Choose therapy that helps your child and isn’t aimed at normalisation. Choose a therapy who will treat your child as an individual rather than a set of autistic behaviours to be minimised.

Meme #21: It’s a nope
Image shows Sylvester Stallone as Rambo showing a double thumbs up. Text says: “Autism parents after a meltdown.”

Practice that empathy you supposedly have in superior quantities to us (which is, of course, another damaging myth), and think about how the child feels post-meltdown.

Meltdowns are overwhelming. Following a meltdown, there’s a generous helping of shame attached as well because we know that that behaviour is frowned upon, but now you add parents into the mix giving themselves back pats for getting through it when they didn’t even experience it in the same way their child did? It’s a nope.

So, that’s seven out of seven nopes. Tomorrow is our last day on this journey, and happily it contains one meme that is actually awesome, so at least there’s something to look forward to.