What is normal anyway?
I have this part of an autism podcast I listened to still ringing in my ears…something along the lines of diagnostic criteria for assessing autism in children & adults still being traditionally based purely on white males. My thoughts have since spiralled or digressed to society in general & perhaps because of similar such criteria for example baby milestones, education levels, it has led me to thinking how we all expect children to largely be just like what they describe in films as an “all-American kid” ie healthy, sporty, well mannered, clever, ambitious, good children. And that it’s this that has through the eons become what’s recognised by us all as ‘normal’.
You know those families who all seem so together & happy with kids sailing through school & really good at their interests who are popular/liked, nice looking & well rounded with lovely friends? The reality is that even if it looks like this, it genuinely does not exist. I refuse to believe that ANY family sails through the teens especially! I’ve also yet to meet a Mum who doesn’t describe all of her children as “so opposite in their personalities”.
I mean what the hell is this persistent version of NORMAL everyone has anyway? If we know we’re ALL different how is it possible for there to be normal? And yet, this human condition we all seem to have is to compare, to want to fit in/find communities based on similarities, & to judge anyone & anything outside of that.
We judge as part of human nature ie not necessarily consciously for most of the time, it seems ingrained in all of us, & in so many of those hundreds of thousands thoughts & decisions we each have & make every single day. I could go for something simple & safe here like we judge how we look, dress, our sizes, the way we speak etc but here goes a bit more full-on…
Much like the genders being broken down into more & more complicated categories, the autism community is divided into more & more complicated subsets that I’m not entirely sure is proving to be that helpful (worse than that the autism ones seems to keep changing). Eeek, bear with me.
Sure we all need to feel valid in how we identify & we look to be around others who love/feel the same experiences as us & that makes all those subsets really, really good & encouraging & healthy & well, about time/at last. But, there still has to be greater more common good/cause that everyone in those categories pull towards to show a global & therefore powerful & recognised & accepted front. That’s what makes Pride so wonderful. Autism needs to be like this too.
Regardless of the terminologies, beliefs in causes, levels on the spectrum, academic abilities, therapies etc. If we in the global autism community aim to not judge each other & try to draw the world towards us with what is common & good among us all, instead of pushing it away, then maybe the world will listen more? Starting by telling our own individual stories to one individual at a time focusing on the common & the good. Shall I move on to religion now…? Ha ha, not a chance.
Coming down from my wholly non academic not backed by science solely mum-speak soap box ah-hem, I’d just like to say to those parents of autistic children who so often feel isolated that whilst “find your tribe” is a lovely little saying, a) it’s not easy so don’t give up and b) don’t let it be too decisive, it may change.
To myself I probably say that my acceptance of my son being diagnosed autistic was instant & all embracing, I have realised over the years that that is not strictly speaking true. Acceptance has come in stages & continues to do so. In short, you hope & reach a kind of conclusion or level/stage/understanding/reality (I can’t quite think of the right word) & you accept. You hope again, reach another reality, accept and hope again. I have now come to terms with not only the word but, my willingness to use it as a positive thing, it’s meaning & my understanding & acceptance of it, by me & no, it might have felt sad beforehand but, really, all it feels now, is good. My nonverbal son Henry at age 11 is profoundly autistic. And what he & all autistic people still have in common regardless of their cognitive function is difficulties with social communication, social imagination & social interaction. He like most other autistic people is also so pure, so loving, so clever, so able to hyper-focus on an interest.
So there, I said it, profoundly autistic & this absolutely does not mean the end of hope by the way. Never.
For the first time I feel my hope for my sons adult life is not false & for the first time I feel a little excited for the adult Henry will one day become. I am intrigued & fascinated by him & what interests may take hold in him. I have set my expectations correctly, for now, I think (no thanks at all to the Education, Health & Care system either I might add…exasperating soul destroying stress inducing, ‘you should be coping’ to parents nightmare that it is). Being able to be curious instead of fixing is a wonderful thing, I need to make it my daily mantra.