I see a lot of non-autistic parents of autistic children dismissing advice from Autistic adults because those adults are not parents.
This needs to stop.
I am an Autistic parent of an autistic child. I shouldn’t have to say that in the context of this message, but it seems that I do. If I don’t, then I am likely to hear that I don’t know what I am talking about because I’m not a parent. People assume that autistic parents are a rarity, so if someone identifies as an autistic adult, then they can’t possibly be a parent themselves. That really is a separate issue though, and it’s one that I have already addressed.
What I would really like to focus on in this post are the autistic adults who are not parents.
To do that, please consider that while my son and I are both autistic, we are still different people. A few examples of how we are different without disrespecting his privacy:
- Our sensory sensitives are different.
- Our language processing skills are different.
- He has additional forms of neurodivergence that I do not.
- He is growing up with the knowledge that he is autistic, whereas I did not.
Being his parent does not give me all the answers on how best to support him. Being autistic does not give me all the answers on how best to support him. Having a respectful relationship with him where his input is valued and respected still does not give me all the answers on how best to support him.
This means that at times I seek advice from other autistic adults.
When I do that, I can’t limit myself to only asking for advice from other autistic parents. Autistic people, who are not parents, may very well have greater insight into what’s going on for him than either I or other autistic parents may have.
This is because all autistic adults were once autistic children.
Even though I was once an autistic child, I can still learn from other autistic adults, regardless of whether they are parents or not. All autistic adults know what it is like to be an autistic child. Some autistic adults may be more like my son than I am. Whether they are parents or not is irrelevant because they were all autistic children once.
Adults don’t need to be parents to understand what it’s like to be a child. Adults don’t need to be parents to understand how to treat children with respect, and autistic adults certainly don’t need to be parents to provide insight into what an autistic child might be experiencing.
So, please don’t devalue the insight that can be gained from autistic adults because they aren’t parents. Their insight into the experience of being an autistic child is incredibly valuable, and they do not need to be parents in order to have that insight.