Posts Tagged ‘parenting’


Have you heard of The Mighty? It’s difficult to avoid the site. People share so-called feel-good stories from The Mighty on any social media they can find. A dog rescues a firefighter from a frozen lake. A kitten does CPR on a grandmother that’s taking care of her daughter’s newborn son.

Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.

Typically the stories have a common template or two.

  • Someone is victimized and someone is rescued
  • Someone is disabled and needs to be saved from their disability
  • Someone is disabled and oh look! The school got together for a photo op to show off how enlightened they are for being kind to the disabled person at a football game!
  • Some is victimized as the disabled person’s parent, because life pulled a fast one and sucker punched them by thrusting a disabled child upon them but someone else comes along to brighten the parent’s day
  • Someone is living in poverty but someone takes a video of someone else giving a few people a free hot lunch at Panera Bread
  • Someone is living in poverty and is interviewed, having to prove they didn’t cause their own downfall so that others feel sorry for them and will want to donate money and clothes and even offer a job… and then the person that offers the job is the savior
  • Someone secretly videos homeless people to see how they’ll behave if they find money on the ground and see meters run out on cars at the same time

 

After a very little while you notice the pattern, and you realize that you can’t excuse the ableism and self-indulgence, the finger-wagging at those who did wrong and the praise of those who did right.

You notice that the victims are parents of individuals that are disabled usually use wheelchairs or are Autistic or have Downs Syndrome. One problem is that they’re not really the focus of the articles. They’re the prop, and they’re what the hero and heroine need to overcome or rescue. These stories perpetuate the ableism and stigma of disabilities.

Disabled individuals (or the disabilities they deal with) are perceived as challenges for others to overcome; as tragedies that occurred to the parents. That’s dangerous thinking that dehumanizes the individuals who really need the attention and help … or who don’t want any attention at all and want to live their lives without judgmental intervention… and most certainly without sharing their most intimate and personal issues and photos without permission. The voice is given to the parent, the caregiver, not the child, and so when there are biological parents who choose to abuse or end the lives of their disabled children, they feel justified and people will defend them because hey… look at just how much suffering the parent had to go through.

On the other hand, if disabled individuals are seen as something that needs to be rescued, these stories tend to infantilize disabled individuals. They can’t care for themselves or speak for themselves, much less advocate for themselves, much less be seen as human.

These stereotypes and ableism perpetuate the notion that disabilities are something to grieve over, and something we must prevent at all costs, cure at all costs, fix, and feel badly about. For the sake of the parents, and for the sake of the little babies.

Worst of all, it causes people to believe that disabilities decrease the value of a life without the intervention of the kindness of strangers.

Either way, the pattern is that disabilities have victimized parents and caregivers and the people who  have disabilities are often not really viewed as being people, but props in these stories.

This pattern has the Autism self-advocacy community and others in the Disability Community in a rightfully angry discussion about an article that has now been pulled by The Mighty. I know, I took the long way round again to get to the crux, sorry.

A supposedly autistic mother to an autistic child posted an article that included a “meltdown bingo” card that was intended to be humorous and supportive to other parents of autistic children. I was embarrassed and bordering on irate when I saw it pop up in my feed from following The Mighty on Facebook (The Mighty was a recommendation to follow a long time ago, I mindlessly clicked it). I clenched my jaw and kept from commenting on the article because I couldn’t keep my fingers from typing something less than polite, less than commiserative. I closed out of it and then I relaxed because thankfully I don’t have any friends on any media would share that tripe and I knew it wouldn’t show up in my feed again.

Except it did show up in my feed again… it started showing up in Facebook and on Twitter and on several of the blogs I follow. The subject of it did, anyway, because the original article was pulled and The Mighty is trying to apologize for it and “recognizes that it was ableist” when they never intend to post anything ableist. Except… well. There’s a firestorm bursting through all of my social media justifying that initial feeling and helping, allowing me to put to words what has felt wrong with The Mighty. That specific article from the autistic mother with the autistic child and the autism meltdown bingo card tipped the internet’s kitten right over.

I’m relieved that the article was pulled (don’t worry, I’m sure it was screen capped or cached somewhere for posterity), but only after there was a lot of backlash for it. This post here from Lemon Peel is one I love hard and has some great links.  CAN U NOT: A Twitter Ode From Me To The Mighty | Lemon Peel

We parents? We make mistakes. Sometimes we make them publicly. Sometimes we make spectacular mistakes, embarrassingly horrifically ghastly mistakes. The challenge we face is to apologize from the heart, to learn from them, to try to repair the damage we’ve done when possible, and not to repeat the mistakes. Sometimes we have to accept that reparation isn’t possible, but we still have to try. Then we have to move on and once we know better, we do better.

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I think it’s important to share the opinions of Actually Autistic people. I’m non-autistic, so even though I’m a parent of an autistic daughter, my opinion doesn’t mean quite as much as that of Actually Autistic people. Before I share my thoughts, this is a great blog entry, shared with permission, from Thoughts from an Autistic Vegan: What’s wrong with Autism Speaks from an Autistic point of view. I’d like to thank Autistic Vegan again for letting me share this.

Saturday, July 11, 2015

What’s wrong with Autism Speaks from an Autistic point of view

It seems everyone is aware of autism these days. I can’t think of anyone I have met, who has never heard of autism.  Autism Speaks has made sure that we are all aware.  Their latest awareness piece came in the form of an article in People magazine, proclaiming Bob and Suzanne Wright to be heroes, battling the autism epidemic.  Battling. Epidemic. The hate speech never ends with Autism Speaks.  It is as if they are unaware that Autistic people don’t want you to go to war with our brains.  My family became aware of our own autism, right at the same time that Autism Speaks was getting off the ground, and becoming a widely known entity.  So they made sure that we knew that autism was something to be afraid of.  My Autistic son was 5 years old in 2009, when Autism Speaks stated, “I am autism…. I work faster than pediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined.  And if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails.”  http://autisticadvocacy.org/2009/09/horrific-autism-speaks-i-am-autism-ad-transcript/ Where are the help and the resources? OT services could be provided for families to get help with understanding their children’s sensory needs.  Communication devices to help people communicate more effectively with their families would certainly help many of us. No, fear is all Autism Speaks has to offer.   Autism Speaks raises millions of dollars with their pity campaigns, and yet, only gives 4% back to families in the communities. http://loveexplosions.net/2014/10/31/oops-they-did-it-again-autism-speaks-2013-financials-just-released/

My son was only 2 years old when Autism Speaks made a documentary called Autism Every Day.  This movie is a pity party for parents of Autistic children, the worst part being when a mom talks about wanting to drive her Autistic child off a bridge, while her Autistic daughter is in the room, and says she only did not do that because of her other, non-Autistic child. http://tinyurl.com/nnhveky These are the things that do the most damage.  Autistic children are murdered by their parents at an alarming rate.  Yet, in the media, which Autism Speaks is always at the center of, this is excused.  People lament the lack of services, think of the martyr parents, and shake their heads at the unfortunate lot in life to have an Autistic child. http://www.autistichoya.com/2013/03/honoring-dead.html In their most recent documentary, Sounding the Alarm, there is more of the same.  Over and over again, the message from Autism Speaks is that autism is an epidemic to be battled.  They don’t take the time to talk to Autistic people of any age to get their opinions on what services are needed, or what message should be sent to the world at large. Instead, they speak to weeping parents, and call for more services as they exploit Autistic people’s darkest moments for profit. They show a complete and utter disrespect for Autistic people in every action that they take.  Because of this, it is very difficult for me to tell people that I am Autistic.  I know it changes their opinion of me, because of the lies that Autism Speaks told them about people like me. No organization has done more harm to the community they claim to help.  It makes me sad that they are the leading resource doctors, therapists, businesses, and everyone else, looks to when seeking information about autism.  How can they be the leading resource when they do not even consult with Autistic people in any meaningful roles?  https://www.autismspeaks.org/about-us/board-directors It’s time for people to stop listening to Autism Speaks, and start listening to Autistic people.

 

This blog entry has several things going through my mind. First, I think I’ll let this marinate a little while for you guys to read. Then I’ll post my own thoughts. But first, please let me emphasize this for other non-autistic parents of autistic children: our children’s opinions on autistic matters including themselves are more important than our own. Who knows what’s better for someone than the people that are having policies and decisions and social discussions about them? I think this reblogged entry I just shared is one that we need to pay attention to, because it’s a common theme among adult autistic self-advocates. 

 

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I ended up wearing rainbow colors that day that I wrote about doing anything, even wearing blue. I just… I realized that supporting her meant more than wearing the blue because it’s her favorite and she asked me and she thought I’d be celebrating her. It meant so, so much more and I tried to explain why I wore a rainbow-flower skirt with a purple shirt (my own favorite color) in a way she could understand. But how do you explain that wearing blue, lighting it up blue, is a trigger event and silences Autistic Voices? That anything explaining away why it’s okay is really not okay?

And that’s what I think I did in that entry, and I wholeheartedly apologize, no qualifications.

So how did I explain to my daughter why I broke the blue promise…

Rainbows and flowers are love, and everyone loves flowers. Autism is full of wonderful colors, not just blue, and even if the flowers in my skirt were fuzzy at the edges they were far prettier than puzzle pieces all over the school walls. She nodded in agreement.

I told her that I wanted her to be able to choose from all of the colors in the rainbow when she’s making friends, when she’s thinking, when she’s getting dressed, when she’s looking outside, all just like when she’s painting or making crafts. She nodded more with each example.

I told her that an agency named Autism $peaks created the Light It Up Blue idea, and that we don’t like all of their ideas because some of their ideas include wanting to cure Autism. I asked her if she remembered hearing about that several days before, and she nodded with a Very Serious Expression on her face.

Then I explained that there are other supportive agencies that want to help her and others like her grow and be happy, and learn to be a self-advocate as she grows up and becomes a teenager and an adult.

I explained that sometimes we were going to have to have different kinds of conversations now about how some people think Autism is not a good thing and how we can change those ideas by showing them the good things and teaching them about the ideas that they don’t quite have right. That sometimes people believe things about Autism that aren’t true, but that we can help educate them. She nodded. She seemed to like the idea of being an educator instead of the student.

I explained that there would be times we would be talking about the better ideas that Mommy has read about from the good agencies so that Mommy can better understand who is a helper and who is not… and that I think she’s getting old enough to learn those things too.

She nodded her head, with a furrowed brow, and said, “Mm hmm.”

“Do you have any questions?”

“Can I still wear my blue skirt?”

“Yes. Always. You can even keep blue as your own favorite color.”

“Mm hmm. Yes.”

“Do you want to ask me more?”

“I don’t know.”

She walked away. So that was that.

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Great way of showing what I’ve been trying to say, but more succinctly. Check out this post below from Jess at Diary of a Mom.

communication | a diary of a mom.

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Happy April! What a gorgeous day today is. All of my girls are feeling well; it’s sunny and temperatures are supposed to reach 40*F; I’m finishing my first cup of coffee while wearing one of my favorite sweaters before getting ready for work.

I think it’s time to assess the things I’m grateful for, especially with Easter coming up this weekend.

Today, on April 1st 2015, I’m very grateful for:

  1. coffee
  2. very large coffee mugs
  3. like, coffee mugs that will fit three 12-oz servings of coffee to drink all at once and that’s like… oh sheesh, math… 36 oz in one mug!
  4. the fact that my family understands the importance of coffee in my life
  5. my husband
  6. my children
  7. seeing so much good in my daughters, with love reflected back to me and in everything they do
  8. my brothers
  9. all of my sisters-in-law
  10. all of my brothers-in-law
  11. my parents and my mother-in-law
  12. my very best friends, my chosen sisters
  13. the good health of my family and friends
  14. my job
  15. the fact that most days I can still function enough to go to work
  16. working toilets
  17. working heat
  18. blankets
  19. sweaters
  20. fluffy slippers
  21. my Kindle
  22. kitchen gadgets
  23. the fact that it hasn’t snowed in two whole days
  24. God answering my prayers in small ways that matter
  25. a working phone
  26. working clothes washer and dryer
  27. payday
  28. my invisible internet friends
  29. oh my gosh, my CATS of course
  30. and how did I not put chocolate on this list by now?
  31. and Girl Scout cookies?
  32. God, there’s something wrong with me today. I also forgot hot showers
  33. and paper towels
  34. and freshly washed warm bath towels
  35. being able to bake with my daughters
  36. family being appreciate (usually) of my cooking)
  37. a (kind of) working (kind of) reliable car
  38. getting X-Finity over frontier because frontier sucks donkey balls, let’s face it
  39. DVR
  40. oh my gosh, why isn’t my hairdresser further up this list? clearly great haircuts from my awesome stylist ought to be further up this list. Last but not least, saved the best for last, and all that, right?

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I would love it if as a mom and ally, I didn’t have to defend Autism. Little babies and children don’t need to be protected from Autism at all costs.  I would love it if society didn’t treat Autism in that way.  I hope that my Sweet Girl never has to defend Autism. She should never have to defend her very existence. I’ve been thinking about a conversation I had with her a couple of weeks ago that I drafted, and am finally sharing.

My Sweet Girl recently found out that there are people who think Autism is Very Bad and want to cure it, prevent it, stop it, and that they spread misinformation about it. When she heard a doctor and someone else who was supposed to be some expert talk about the MMR vaccine and Measles, the pros and cons, the arguing and veiled insults, she shot her head up as soon as the woman (not the doctor) brought Autism into it. She said something negative about preventing ASD, curing ASD, blaming the MMR and epidemic rates, and the usual propaganda prattle. The Doctor thankfully had his head on straight and refuted the claims this loon was making.

The look of confusion on Sweet Girl’s face would have been amusing under any other circumstance, but I knew by the quickening of her breath that she had some understanding of what that woman said, and it wasn’t something I was ready for because I worried that it wasn’t something she was ready for.

And so I was cursing the Today Show for ramming the measles/vaccine/autism discussion during school-preparation time.

“Why did they say that? What did they just say?”

“There are some people who think Autism is caused by traumas, errr, injuries to the brain. There are some people who think that vaccines cause an injury that makes Autism, and that vaccines can cause other injuries so they don’t trust vaccines. People are getting the Measles right now because a lot of people stopped giving their children shots. They think Measles is safer than the shots.”

“That is stupid, shots are medicine. You need medicine. Shots stop sick before you get sick.” ::dirty look:: “I don’t like needles.”

“I don’t like getting shots either.”

“I do not want to take away my Autism,” she said, pronounced like AWT-izm.

And then the hard part.

“Why do people want to stop my Autism? Then I would not be here,” and there was an edge of hurt in her voice mingled with disbelief.

“I don’t know the answer to that, honey, except that maybe those people just don’t understand Autism or how to look for the talents instead of the stuff in Autism that makes things hard for you and other people like you.”

“Yes, it is hard. I need my Autism. I love being… what is the word? I love being Autism?”

Tears started to well up.

“The word is ‘autistic’ sweetie. Do you love being Autistic?”

“Mmmm hmm.”

“Are you happy?”

“Mmmm HMMMM!”

“That makes me happy. I love you and your Autism.”

 

With a nod she walked away. As you can see, my daughter is kind of amazing. Just like her sisters. In her own words, at only 12 years old she let me know in no uncertain terms that she doesn’t want a cure. She thinks the idea of being injured is stupid (we’re working on reducing the ableist language like stupid and idiot, sorry it slipped in). She’s shocked at the idea that anyone would want to change who she is or prevent more people like her from being born.

She’s delighted when she finds out that other classmates or other peers are like her. There’s a sudden new understanding and behavior shift with them when she finds out, and they’re just happy to “be.” She has a compassion for difficult behaviors when she knows that they might have autism or something similar.

As I said, she’s kind of amazing.

We’ve been honest and open with her about Autism from the beginning when we realized it helped her to know. It helped her form questions when she had them. Since she’s known for so long, since she was 4 1/2 or so, she’s never “not known” that she’s Autistic. I trust her instincts.

She knows that there’s a reason she thinks differently, works things through differently, does things at a different pace, has different talents, approaches things differently, has certain obstacles and challenges that are really difficult and upsetting, but because we accept every single part of her she accepts every single part too. Behaviors that she actively dislikes, or knows that need to change because they could be dangerous because we’ve talked it out, she works hard on. She asks questions and she watches. She tries. She does a lot of watching and experimenting. She doesn’t fear herself, and I don’t fear her. If something seems impossible, we see if there’s an accommodation to make it easier. We adjust. We accept.

I don’t feel sad for her. I don’t want anyone to feel sad for her. I don’t want anyone to think that she’s miserable or suffering. She’s not “suffering with Autism.” She’s autistic, and she’s not suffering. She’s growing into a young woman. Would anyone say she’s with femaleness? And suffering with femaleness? Or she’s suffering with blondness? She’s not. The autism is as much a part of her as her talents to make crafts, draw, paint, write stories, sing, connect with babies and toddlers and animals.

I know she’s going to have opportunities and she’s going to find her own way. I’ll encourage her talents and continue to encourage self-advocacy and education about her own disabilities. I’ll protect her and teach her, guide her, answer her questions, and hope that I’m doing this the right way while I try to learn more about her every day. She loves to learn about herself. She looks at me with impatience, though, when I ask questions to try to learn more about what’s inside her thoughts processes.

“You ask too many questions.”

Yes, honey, and it will never stop.

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microwave dangerWe packed up the baby factory years ago.  My youngest is 9 years old going on 40.  I’m turning 40 next month.  Well… 30 with ten years experience.  Seeing babies and pregnant women often makes me want to have more of my own.  I miss the newborn and infant stages… all of the littleness stages.The practicality of it is obvious, I suppose, but the emotions of it aren’t gone so I need a new rundown of why it’s probably good that we’re done having babies.

  1. I’m not a spring chicken
  2. We can come and go from the house without having to pack up lots and lots of gear
  3. The children are mostly self-sufficient and independent
  4. I wouldn’t have to deal with morning sickness that lasts 24/7
  5. We don’t have to think up cutesy ways of telling people that “we” are pregnant
  6. We don’t have to decide if we want to wait or find out the sex of a baby and then answer endless questions about it
  7. I won’t have to hear old wives tales about how I’m carrying, eating, looking
  8. No more diaper changing or spit up unless I’m babysitting for someone else
  9. I won’t have to answer personal questions about pregnancy or jokes about how I got that way
  10. We don’t need to see people’s facial expressions when they hear name considerations that they dislike
  11. We don’t need to worry about agreeing on a name together for a brand new human
  12. We won’t have to rearrange bedrooms for a crib
  13. We won’t have to tip-toe around nap times or worry about getting a baby used to a noisy house
  14. We won’t have to answer questions on what style of parenting we’re going to use
  15. I won’t have to take 6 weeks maternity leave from work and then get so emotional that I have to quit my job to stay home because I just can’t leave my baby
  16. I can look at other pregnant women and feel a little jealous or envious, but the feeling passes
  17. I don’t have to argue for or against natural birth or epidurals or c-sections or hospital birth or home birth or magic wands
  18. I don’t have to share my opinion on “push presents”
  19. I can hold other babies and spend time with toddlers, but I get to go home with my own daughters
  20. I get to keep being the cool auntie to new babies
  21. I don’t have to worry about SIDS unless a newborn is sleeping over my house
  22. I baby-talk at the cats
  23. Toilet training is over
  24. We no longer watch Blue’s Clues and Dora the Explorer on endless loops
  25. I can no longer remember all of the names of each Wiggle
  26. I don’t have to worry about whether I have to defend breastfeeding or bottle feeding
  27. I don’t have to worry about whether I have to defend cloth diapering or disposable diapering
  28. Regarding 17, 18, 26 and 27… I don’t mind my brain to mouth filter quite as much as I used to in my old-ish age
  29. I really need the coffee and pregnancy would hinder that, and more children would increase my need for it
  30. I have a chronic pain disorder and let’s face it, pregnancy would exacerbate my Fibromyalgia
  31. Babies are expensive
  32. We would need all new baby gear and clothes
  33. We really need a new dishwasher
  34. And a new heater
  35. And a new hot water boiler
  36. We could also use some new windows
  37. Maybe some curtains too
  38. I’d also love a new living room set
  39. We also need to get the girls some new bedroom furniture
  40. And I really enjoy being able to get my hair done every few months
  41. We also enjoy buying groceries
  42. And affording coffee
  43. My memory is not what it used to be, and a new baby could end up on the middle school bus while my middle schooler is happily sleeping in a crib
  44. I need far more sleep than a newborn would give me
  45. Or a toddler for that matter
  46. I recently had a dream that I was still in high school and left my baby in the gymnasium because the bell rang and it was lunch time but when I went back the baby was gone
  47. My daughters are perfectly happy with our family dynamic
  48. My husband is perfectly happy with our family dynamic
  49. I’m pretty sure the cats are somewhat, sort of, maybe happy with our family dynamic
  50. My daughters are old enough to do chores and a new baby isn’t
  51. I threw away all of my old maternity clothes
  52. It would be really difficult pushing a stroller and using my cane at the same time
  53. Kitty litter is bad for pregnant women and babies
  54. The microwave oven at my work place… just saying
  55. I have already achieved perfection in the three daughters that I have

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