Having an autistic child is not the end of the world--far from it. It is my hope that through this blog, at least a handful of people will get to understand that. My child is amazing, she brings us tremendous joy. We have good days & bad days, but we CHOOSE to focus on the good. Our belief is that by loving our daughter, giving her the most comfortable environment we can, and by most of all accepting her differences, she will continue to blossom--in her OWN way.

1/15/08

Autism Everyday: Exploitations & Misconceptions (Part I)

PhotobucketIf you've ever read my blog, you probably know I'm not a big fan of Autism Speaks. But, in case you don't know, I take issue with the "Autism Everyday" video.

It disgusts me the way the children in this video are exploited. I am sick at how careless the filmmakers were and the message this video sends out. I've written previously about Alison Tepper Singer and how she was applauded for her bravery when she admits to contemplating killing her autistic child. That is by far my biggest grievance with the film. Here are some more...

The way the parents force their children to hug or kiss them. The effect of despair that comes from parents repeatedly saying "I love you" and not getting a response. It all comes off as very gut-wrenching. How bewildering it must be to be a parent to an autistic child, and never feel your love reciprocated. Guess what? My daughter can be very affectionate, at times and on her own terms. If a film crew, strangers with strange equipment were in our home, I highly doubt she'd feel much like hugging or kissing me. There is a chance she would cling to me for dear life; but I highly doubt we'd see the sweet and charming child I know her to be, in the calm safety of her home. No, with strangers here, following her every movement, she would have meltdown after meltdown, run and try to hide anywhere, it would be a nightmare for her.

I do not and will not ever force my child to hug or kiss me. For quite some time, the closest we would get to a hug, was an arm that would quickly wrap around our leg and then let go. That later turned into a brief half-hug near our back if we were sitting down. And now, we get full-fledged bear hugs! She will come up to us and squeeze us with all the love in the world! We are careful to ask her if we can get a hug, before we approach her. I am aware of her delicate sensory system. A hug at a certain time, and if she is unprepared for it, may not feel good to her.

Kisses often aren't something my child enjoys. You know what though? I can name you several alternatives to kisses, and they are all just as wonderful. We sometimes touch foreheads, chins, or noses to each other's. Recently, we've discovered our daughter is okay with "lipless" kisses. We press our lips against her cheek or forehead, and she smiles. She now says "no sound!" when she wants this type of kiss. If I forced her to hug on demand or kiss her with my lips puckered, she would pull away. What good would that do?

The majority of times that we say "I love you" to our daughter, we do not get a response. I've yet to cry over this. I won't ever cry over this. I realize that a lot of times, my daughter really doesn't hear us, especially if she is enthralled in an activity, television, etc. So, why would I get upset and take it personally? There's no reason, unless I wanted other parents, people with fat wallets, to feel bad for me and donate to my charity. Another discovery we made was that our daughter likes to sign "I love you." Even though she is verbal, and capable of uttering the words, "I love you," she prefers to sign it. It's a beautiful sight. I'll never demand she answer me when I say "I love you," nor will I want sympathy from others if she doesn't reply.

If these parents would simply throw out the criteria they have for what a sign of love is, be it a hug, kiss, or verbalization, they'd pity themselves much less. They need to quit taking it all so personally. Find alternatives. Meet your child somewhere in the middle, where he or she is comfortable. Doors will open, and I promise you, the new ways you discover to express love, will be even better than the "old" standbys.

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