There is a… We’ll call it a theme. There’s a theme in parenting groups in general, but most especially in parenting groups for parents of autistic children. That theme looks like this:
It looks like group descriptions that include
“This is a place for autism parents to seek support and advice.”
“This is a safe place for parents of children with autism to share their experiences.”
“This is a place for parents to reach out for support and advice for dealing with the unique challenges of having a child with autism.”
It looks like posts that include
“Some days I hate autism.”
“I just need to vent!”
“I’m just looking for support, but I’m feeling really attacked right now!”
It looks like group admins messaging autistic members who try to speak out against harmful anti-autistic comments and saying
“This is a parent support group. If we scare away parents by fighting with them, they’ll never learn to accept their children.”
“You catch more flies with honey…”
“You are being really impolite to parents who are just looking for support.”
This theme… This theme looks like headlines that read
“Overwhelmed mother attempts to decapitate autistic son with a bow saw”
It looks like news articles that contain
“Parents struggle with lack of support”
Over and over and over again.
We need to talk about “support”.
We need to talk about what it means to seek support in a group for parents of autistic children. We need to talk about what it means for murderers to blame their actions on “lack of support”.
We need to talk about what support looks like.
But first we need to talk about what toxic support looks like.
Toxic support is driving your friend to her abuser’s house because she said that’s what she wants. Toxic support is ignoring your friend’s difficulty with addiction. Toxic support is Tom Haverford and Donna Meagle “Treat yo Self”ing each other into bankruptcy.
Toxic support is allowing a parent to vent, not about how difficult it is to get other people to respect their child, not about how cruel the mainstream school system is, not about how brutal the Healthcare system is, but about their child. About autism. Toxic support is *pat pat*ing and *there there*ing and “get the wine 🍷”ing.
Toxic support is forgetting that there is a child behind that support post that has to live with the consequences of the behavior you enable.
Toxic support is putting parents first. Toxic support is prioritizing the feelings of a parent over the safety and security of a child. Toxic support is how we get Kelli Stapleton (look it up).
What does authentic support look like?
Real support looks like
“I hear how frustrated and frightened you are. Don’t loose focus on reality. Your child isn’t flawed. The system is. I wonder how X is feeling right now?”
“It seems like you’re feeling disappointed that your child isn’t what you expected. It’s hard to accept, no one prepares you for this. But we aren’t actually entitled to able bodied children. Disabled children are just as natural as any other. The only thing that’s unacceptable is how society is set up to oppress and devalue them.”
Support looks like honesty. And honestly some of yall need a kick in the pants.
Autism isn’t something your kid is doing to you. You’re not actually entitled to your safe supportive place when that support comes at the expense of your children. When you reinforce each other’s bad attitudes, you weave and reweave narratives of autism as burden, tragedy, struggle… You weave our death shrouds.
That’s the cost of your “support”.
Is it worth it?