Dear Autism Parents: On Unconditional Acceptance

I just read an essay in What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew and it touches home with me. In it, the author, Haley Moss, mainly describes how she feels parents need to ucnonditionally accept their autistic daughters. She particularly emphhasizes the need to support the girls’ special interests even if they’re not age-appropriate or girly. Boy, do I want to tell my parents this. It’s too late now, as I’m 32 and have half a lifetime of conditional love behind me already.

Moss herself too was encouraged to develop age- and gender-appropriate interests as a child. She recounts a fourth grade memory of being advised to trade her rare cards for Bratz dolls. I have no idea what they are, but I remember in fifth or sixth grade also being encouraged by my mother (in not so subtle ways) to trade my Barbie dolls for pop music CDs. After all, Barbie dolls may be girly but they’re not deemed appropirate for an eleven-year-old.

The negative effects of one such incident, like Moss experienced, can be undone by a greater occurrence of open acceptance of the autistic’s special interests. For example, Moss’ paretns eventually affirmed her interest in video games. In this respect, I felt generally okay about my interests in fifth and sixth grade, because, though my mother did not support my playing with Barbie dolls, my father did support my drawing maps.

As a general rule though, I have commonly felt only conditionally accepted by my parents. This is reflected in constant victim-blaming when I was bullied. They were at least somewhat consistent in that, in that at least my father spoke negatively about the intellectually disabled girl whom I bullied too. Of course, he set an example of ableism by doing this as much as my parents did by victim-blaming me.

When I went into college to major in applied psychology, I still got my parents’ reluctant approval. After all, though my major wasn’t that well-liked by them and my college wasn’t as prestigious as they had wanted for me, it still was college. Since having experienced my breakdown in 2007, it’s pretty clear my parents are not there for me anymore. That’s sad, but it’s true.

The saddest part about What Every Autistic Girl Wishes Her Parents Knew is, unfortunately, that those parents who most need to hear the messages in it, will not read it. My parents don’t even think I’m autistic despite my having been officially diagnosed half a dozen times. Other parents may’ve gotten the diagnosis but choose to join the likes of Autism Speaks and shout “You are not like my child!” at every autistic adult trying to educate them about acceptance. That’s so sad. However, if some parents are helped by this blog post or by the book in showing unconditional acceptance to their children, that’s already good.

5 thoughts on “Dear Autism Parents: On Unconditional Acceptance

    1. I would recommend this person talk to her daughter about it anyway in a non-judgmental way. Like, depending on how old the daughter is, she coud talk about each of our brains working differently, like some kids are good at math and others are good at spelling. Then she could go on to describe autism as a kind of special way the brain works. Since you say the daughter hasn’t been diagnosed yet, I would recommend her mother involve her in decision-making as to whether she wants to be tested or not. Commonly, autistic kids will know they’re different from an early age on (roughly age six I hear). If the child is too young to give her opinion on testing, I’d recommend the parent go forward with it anyway. It was suggested at an early age that I may be autistic, but my parents didn’t want to hear of it, also fearing stigma. Then again, a child or their parent is not required to disclose an autism diagnosis if they don’t feel comfortable with it (unless for insurance purposes or the like), so they can always choose when to disclose or not.

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  1. It’s so sad to hear about your negative experiences with your parents 😦 As a mum myself I cannot imagine being anything other than accepting of my children – hopefully this will help raise awareness x

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