Sunday, December 03, 2006

Every Social Encounter

The parallels between raising a child near or on the spectrum, and raising a child with an atypical gender identity have occurred to me before. But this morning, reading the New York Times article about new parental attitudes and experiences raising transgender children, reminded me so much of our experiences with Sweet M:
Ms. B., 41, a lawyer, accepted the way her son defined himself after she and her husband consulted with a psychologist and observed his newfound comfort with his choice. But she feels the precarious nature of the day-to-day reality. “It’s hard to convey the relentlessness of it, she said, “every social encounter, every time you go out to eat, every day feeling like a balance between your kid’s self-esteem and protecting him from the hostile outside world.” (emphasis added)
How many of us raising children on or near the spectrum feel the relentlessness of the potential hostility of the social world and the demands on us to mitigate that hostility?

Reading through the autism parenting blogs one finds that hostility and fear of our children can be found almost anywhere: at schools when educators give up on our children, in supermarkets when an episode of dysregulation prompts well-meaning or terrified others to call for the police, when a child's frustration at the changing space of the city, and the shortage of taxi's, overflows and he or she is thought of as a brat with bad parents.

How do we insulate our children from the world's misunderstanding and hostility? How do we provide them with tools for self-advocacy? And how can we educate others so that misunderstanding and hostility gives way to knowledge and acceptance? These are some of the questions I'll be thinking about in the days to come.

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6 comments:

mcewen said...

The insulation becomes a little threadbare as they get older.
Best wishes

Kassiane said...

You tell them who they are, what they are (an autie), and that other people may not understand because it isn't like using a cane or not speaking English--all acceptable forms of diversity. You love her.

As for teaching advocacy, that's a 30 page or so chapter. Really. Not kidding. (I wrote it). Waaaaay too long for a comment. Guide her in gradually achieving more independence in sticking up for herself in the situations is what it comes down to, but there are more details and such written down. And never underestimate the power of letter writing.

Kristina Chew said...

Also of the ingratiating smile....... I think just taking our kids out to public places again and again, regardless of what happens, in an act or an attempt of advocacy in and of itself. No shut-ins here...

Mat said...

Speaking as someone who's both trans* and autistic, I think the answer for 'what to do' is probably pretty similar. Love them, respect them, fight for them, believe them.

kyra said...

wow. that quote describes EXACTLY how i feel!

i love what everyone has already said here. i worry about the 'insulation' as fluffy gets older but my hope is that, as mat said, the loving, respecting, fighting for, and believing in, (as well as the teaching of--in our case, through enki and RDI) will be its own insulation.

Anonymous said...

I don't know what I'm going to do. I still feel so despairing when we are judged lacking, my little Nims and I, by people who have no idea and are just making stupid snap judgments. I feel this way a LOT, and I've likewise thought about what it must be like to have children that break other taboos by their identity. As Mcewen said, the insulation is going to get threadbare and that terrifies me.

I suppose we'll all be growing into it together.