I’m Anna Taylor, and I work with the most inspiring bunch of Autistic adults you could ever dream of meeting….
However they get frustrated by people like me, especially since i’m a bit mumsie. I can’t help being mumsie, you see I’m a mum of 4, 2 of which are autistic. So I’m naturally gifted in that department.
The problem with being mumsie for Autistic adults is multidimensional. I’m a bit of a fusser, and I’m nosey, I like to help lots, and I just care too much. I also see things from my point of view, and that’s as a mum.
Which leads me to the no 1 thing Autistic adults need you to know!
- DON’T TRY TO CHANGE ME. Parents care, and need their needs met, so often can really p*** off Autistic adults by trying too hard to get them to fit their expectations of how they should be. For example, stopping their traits or behaviours, passions and interests.
Some of the people I get to hang out with tell me they have had some bad experiences around this. Parents are wrapped up in their experience of autism when they first get a child diagnosed, and that can lead them down many paths. Curing, behaviour modifications, medications, until they learn to navigate. It is inevitable that during this process, the child gets a few bad experiences along the way. Parents grieve, and often it is their first experience of difference. The whole imagined disabled future unfolds before them. As the kids grow, and turn into adults, some accept who they are, some learn for themselves, and some see that being neuro-diverse is an evolution, not a disability. I know a lot of neuro-diverse adults who don’t want autism in their language, and hate the way parents have tried to change them…
- DON’T TRY TO STOP ME DOING THE THINGS I WANT TO DO and can do, because of the things I can’t do, or I don’t know about yet. In other words, I have autism, and It restricts me sometimes. I may get overwhelmed by too much sensory stuff. But don’t stop me ever experiencing things because of it. I still need to experience all the emotions, and opportunities everyone else has the right to experience. I can be sexual, i can love, get hurt, earn a living, go out, have friends, go on holiday, and experience life…Cotton wool is not necessary.
- RESPECT THAT I HAVE THOUGHTS AND FEELINGS DIFFERENT FROM YOU. I am unique, and like to do things my way.
Parents across the world can often see their children as “mini me’s”, expecting the family traditions and experiences to be replicated in their children. It’s really difficult to accept that they have different thoughts and feelings to you. If parents have been subjected to old fashioned ideas and outdated literature about autism, then they may have the mindset that “ all autistic children do this….(insert the relevant phrase such as, have no eye contact, have no imagination, are geniuses ) It’s ok to be different, feel different and value difference.
- DON’T PUT ME IN AN ABILITY CATEGORY. High functioning, low functioning, able less able, mild, severe, these are all phrases and categories professionals need to create to put us in boxes. It may help them, but it often doesn’t help us. How someone experiences autism is unique, for example I work with some people who have been put in the severe category by professionals. One young man is completely happy in his world, with very few difficulties. He prefers his own company, and has such amazing artistic skills, producing art that is phenomenal. Yet he has no language, or inclination to use it. He wears headphones to cut out unwanted noises, and enjoys his perfect music instead. Another autistic person I know, spends his life worrying about everything and every interaction. He would be labelled as high functioning, as he has a job, a mortgage and a girlfriend. Yet he is constantly anxious, self harms and feels completely disabled by his differences. So their labels, in my humble opinion, could very easily be reversed, don’t you think?
- TREAT ME AS AN EQUAL. Ok to be honest, I often treat most of the people I work with as superior to me! Reason being, they often retain more information than I do, have amazing recollection( I forget what day it is) and just are amazing experts in their special interests. I cannot remember how many times I have been corrected on an exact conversation, what I said, or promised, or suggested, only to forget it all. If I need to know anything, I usually ask one of our tribe, as they usually have the correct answer.
But it boils my p*** when I see people treat others with little respect, or talk down to them, or worse, ask a carer to answer for them. We ALL belong on this planet, have a right to fulfil our purpose, in whatever way we choose, with respect for others, without harming anyone.
Honestly, I don’t always practice what I preach, but I do try to remember, even with my less superior brain, to be respectful of the above 5 truths.
There are always exceptions to every rule, I’m not saying this is true for everyone. After all when you have met one autistic person, you’ve met one autistic person, no two people are the same… right?