It’s time to talk about Autistic Parenting Support Spaces and anti-autistic brutality.
Many of us have heard about Paaarents. These are the “my kid’s autism is so hard for meeeee” folks. The “I love my kid but I hate autism” folks. The “we don’t want little Timmy to become dependent on supports” folks. The “you’re not like my child” folks. And, almost always, these folks are necessarily positioned as allistic (non autistic) parents of autistic children. I’m here to tell you a different kind of #notall paaarents. We’ve all heard “not all parents are anti-autistic.” Well. Not all (anti-autistic) paaarents are allistic.
Many parents of autistic children have discovered that they themselves are autistic. They want their own parenting support spaces, free from the hateful rhetoric of spaces built by allistic parents. I have been in these spaces and I have been watching and I have seen the truth. You can lead the parent to Autistic culture but you can’t make ’em drink.
Removing yourself from allistic spaces doesn’t remove internalized standards of allistic values and communication from yourself. You have a lot of work to do to shed that allistic skin. That shield you built to survive your undiagnosed life is thick. It has layers. Identifying as autistic is just the epidermis.
What we have is a growing den of paaarents that think their own autistic identity protects them from making paaarenting style mistakes. It. Does. Not.
So. If you’re an autistic parent of an autistic child and you you want to start sloughing off that allistic hide, here are some guide posts:
Learn your History. Being autistic doesn’t mean your opinion negates *decades* of autistic activism. Listen to your elders. They’ve been fighting for you since before you were aware. Don’t disrespect that.
Critical Language. Are you fighting about language or about politeness? We advocate for non-pathologizing language because we know it impacts our access to self-determination. Are your feelings hurt because someone is criticizing you or because someone is critiquing a system you haven’t examined critically yet?
Eliminate Shame. Is that post you’re about to write something that would hurt your grown child to read? Would it hurt you to read it about yourself? If it’s embarrassing to your child, it’s probably harmful to someone in your support group. Rethink how you frame your problem. You’ll find this process can have healing power in and of itself.
(Em) Power. Remember the balance of social power. Autistic or not, as a parent you weild power over your child. The way you weild that power has implications for all our children. The way you defer to the power of others has implications for all of us. If you give professionals – medical, educational, political – power over your child you give it over all of us. Be careful with your deference. It can be disastrous.