On “You Are Not Like My Child”…

This image is important. It is what every parent should keep in mind while interacting with autistic people, but especially adults who are here to help you better understand your child. The vast majority of us have no alternate motive other than to make your child’s life easier by allowing you to gain insight directly from people who’ve gone through what your children are going through, but are now mature enough to process those experiences & explain them for learning purposes.

So why fight us? Why yell, “YOU ARE NOT LIKE MY CHILD!” when we ARE like your child? It doesn’t make sense. If you are truly looking for answers… we generally have them. Where your child is right now?  We get it. So why push us aside? Nobody’s life experiences are exactly the same as anyone else’s, but we get it… we really do. We get the processing hiccups and communication barriers. We get the sensory overload and the meltdowns. We get the feelings of isolation and the struggles for accommodation. We understand what this is like for your child, because most of us have been there. We have the same neurology as your child and this makes us uniquely able to give you firsthand insight on the abilities and disabilities to which that neurology may be prone.

Are you the same person you were at your child’s age? You have changed as you’ve aged, as almost all humans do. Do you make decisions now based on your gained life experiences? If you’re reading this, I guarantee you do. Are you able to evaluate, prioritize, and adapt better as you’ve gained wisdom over the years? More than likely, you do. Guess what? As adults… all of that also applies to us. And it will apply to your child as they get older. They will learn. They will change. They will adapt. And you can help them.

“Tone policing is really getting annoying. It is too often used to dismiss what the person is saying by focusing on HOW they say it. When you are arguing with an Autistic person, and you are not focusing on the words that are being said, and instead on the way it is being said, you are being a jerk. Please pay attention to what I am saying because I swear to God, if you knew how carefully I choose my words and how difficult sometimes it is to even find them, you would not be so dismissive of my ‘tone’.

Consider it an accommodation, I guess. The same way I accommodate parents and well meaning people who say things like ‘the only disability in life is a bad attitude’ or ‘I hate autism’ or any number of ableist and terrible things that they say to me every day. Yet, I manage to overlook a lot of it because I try to remember that you are learning, and I try to presume competence and hope that you will do better. If you all could just do me a real solid and extend the same courtesy to Autistic people on our ‘tone’, that would be great.”

– Lei Wiley-Mydske

When you yell at us or fight us, you make us not want to help. We don’t have to do what we do. But we choose to anyway. Why? Because we give a damn. We know how difficult it is to be “different” and we want the playing field to be as level as possible for your child. If you don’t like what we’re saying, don’t tell us to say it differently. There’s a reason we’re saying what we’re saying and how we’re saying it. You can ask for clarification, but be respectful of the journey. It’s been a tough one and we are tired, frustrated, and our spoons are usually pretty low. But we’re still here to help.

When you’re pushing against what we say, please remember that your choice of words is important. When you dismiss the experiences and insight we choose to share with you, by tone-policing us, you are also giving the world permission to do the same thing to your child — now and in the future. If you want to set an example for the world to respect what your child has to say and encourage them to feel safe about advocating for themselves… you need to start by being mindful of how you treat the other autistic individuals you encounter in these spaces.

While we are here to help, we will stand up for ourselves if you try to speak over us. If you don’t like what we have to say, too bad. Don’t fight us. We are here to help your child. Put on your big kid pants, be their proxy, and listen. We are here to advocate, both for ourselves and your children. In advocating for ourselves, we are setting the path of equality for your children. In advocating for your children, we are trying to help you understand how to make their lives happier and more fulfilled… which is what I can only assume every parent truly wants for their child, deep down. That’s the goal, right? If so, please work with us and listen. We have a lot to say and all of it is relevant, because we are like your child.

“When I was being bullied as a kid, my mother counseled me to be ‘nicer/ to my bullies, on the hypothesis that they’d stop bullying me if I was sufficiently ‘nice’ to them.

RESULTS OF STUDY: There is no point at which the “nice” is sufficient to get inhuman treatment to stop. There are, however, potentially infinite points at which ‘nice’ will get you ground into the dirt even further. RECOMMENDATION: Nope.”

– Dani Alexis Ryskamp