Quite often as I browse Twitter I come across various posts discussing the abusive nature of neurotypical parents towards their autistic children. I was seriously shocked at first, and a little hurt if I’m honest. How could neurotypical (NT) parents be given this label? I mean, child abuse? Really? Surely NT parents couldn’t be that bad at parenting a child on the spectrum? But as time went on I saw evidence of the abusive practices that autistic adults were referring to. And it was bone chilling. At this point I would like to thank those autistic adults who put themselves through reading “parenting” books written by NT parents. It scares me how widely read these books are and how much influence they hold on parenting practices, without actually taking on the point of view of an autistic adult. Therefore there is no evidence included in these books that the parenting approach has actually helped the autistic child lead a fulfilling and beautiful life. But that is a discussion for another blog…
Right now i want to talk about a topic that seems to raise its head on a regular basis but never get fully discussed. Does a parent have the right to expect certain behaviours from their children? For example, to hit certain milestones, to be disappointed when they leave their caregiver and happy when they return. Does a parent have the right to expect a typical neurodevelopmental pattern from their child from the very day they are born?
In short, no. No one has the right to expect their child to portray the picture perfect vision of upbringing that they have imagined pre pregnancy. The pressure this places upon the child to live up to expectations of their parent simply leads down a path consisting of feelings of inadequacy and failure. And who would ever want that for their child? When a child is born their unique talents and view on life should be celebrated and encouraged, leading to feelings of confidence and self worth.
However, there is something that needs to be mentioned here and that’s the disappointment that parents feel when their expectations are not met. Is this acceptable? Or does it merely portray a selfish parental figure?
Personally I think it’s understandable that a parent would feel disappointment INITIALLY. Why? Because our NT world is not currently accepting or knowledgeable enough about autism to raise the topic BEFORE a child is born. Many parents-to-be will attend antenatal classes and will have their heads filled with expectations of what childbirth and raising an infant will be like. For example, you will have a natural delivery or a c-section, you will breast feed or bottle feed, you will use purees or baby led weaning. Never at any point was it mentioned in our classes that when our beautiful son entered this world he may not fit into any of those categories. Never was the difference between NT and autism even touched upon. Never was there any discussion about what to do if you felt your child may not be following the ‘typical’ pattern of development. Therefore as an expectant parent you are made to feel that if your child is anything other than “normal” you have missed out. You won’t get to experience what all the other parents get to feel and witness.
So in the very beginning I believe it is acceptable to feel disappointed. Because our current ableist world prepares you for nothing else. But from then on it’s up to you. It’s up to you which path you choose. You can spend your days trying to mould your child to fit in with society, to behave as others would expect them to behave and achieve goals at the time the government expects them to achieve them. You can stop them from flourishing into the beautiful butterfly they were always meant to be and suffocate them with therapies such as ABA.
Or, you can take the other path. Ditch the NT expectations. Read. Learn. Change your parenting style. As soon as you do this any disappointment or right you felt you had to see and feel certain behaviours and emotions will automatically leave you. Because you will fall so in love with the child you have, become so besotted with the person your child actually is, that you’ll never search for that right again.
But it’s up to you as their parent to take that path. There’s a bunch of us waiting to help you along the way.
Thanks for reading,