“How can you be autistic? You’re married; you have children.”
I’m not the only autistic person who has heard words similar to these. Would somebody tell me why autism does not equate with being married or in a long term relationship and having children? What do people think they know about autism?
At one time, women were often seen as poor mothers if they worked. Somehow, good mothers were clearly only available in aprons. It’s a notion that might quietly bubble under the surface in some sectors but largely, due no doubt to the insistence of gender equality, most have shut up about it. Society, however, seems to rejoice in bad mouthing mothers and it moved on from working mums to single mums. Oh, and autistic mums seem to cop for some really discriminatory treatment. There are just fewer of us because autistic people are already in a minority.
Since my book was published, I’ve had conversations with many parents who have experienced prejudice and discrimination from professionals simply because of their autism. Some have had their children removed from their care and placed in abusive situations, often with grandparents who raise the child or children with the same lack of understanding and care they used on their own children. Others have been flagged up to social services.
To be perfectly honest, I don’t know what myths there are about autistic parents because there just isn’t much dialogue on the subject. There isn’t much out there on disabled parents, full stop. If I told you what myths there are about autism, it would be a very long list. Autistic people often run polls on social media on this very subject. The most harmful myths that directly relate to autistic mothers would be:
- We lack empathy
- We can’t have proper relationships
- We are poor communicators
If we are really committed to a society where we applaud diversity and wider inclusion, then surely we must accept that disabled people, including the autistic ones, can and do make excellent parents. We need to learn to look at others with more empathy, something us autistic people are mistakenly supposed to lack. What would you do and how would you feel if your right to motherhood was challenged or you were under investigation by the authorities simply because you were culturally different?
Working mothers are no longer frowned upon by society and neither are single parents. The same cannot be said for autistic parents. This needs to change and only happens when we view people equally. In an age where we are encouraged to embrace diversity, our views and values should go right into the heart of the home.