I watched Loving Lamposts the other day which a fellow blogger recommended. I myself have an Aspie daughter, and I, too, like in the movie went through a phase where I blamed her diagnosis on myself being a young and naïve mother; thinking that I could fix the problem. I soon came to the realization, though, that my daughter is who she should be and perfect in her own way and therefore should not be forced to think and act in a certain way just because it is the majority’s way. Being a minority doesn’t mean that one is wrong, just different.
I haven’t heard of or looked much into the term neuro-diverse which is mentioned in the movie as a more appropriate way to label children on the autism spectrum; this word being similar to calling those of average nature a neuro-typical, because they are typically like the majority of the population.
Well, the more that I watched the movie the more I could relate to those considered neuro-diverse.
Now, I have never been diagnosed with any mental disorder besides depression at various times (and maybe could get a few more if I was completely honest with myself), but many of their thoughts and feelings were not far from mine.
One man mentions that he has spent the majority of his life feigning to be like everyone else at the expense of his own happiness, and just how stressful that lifestyle is. If he doesn’t pretend, like most of us know but may not like to admit, he would endure ridicule and mockery for not fitting in properly.
This is the type of stuff my daughter has tremendous anxiety over. She spends more time and effort in just trying to be typical then just investing in her own passions and having fun. I love it when she brings a friend home that will sit for hours and play with her polly pockets. She at 11 would do this above any amount television watching or talking on the phone.
So, to me there is not much difference then those who probably live a “typical” life, but are just more adept at keeping their quirks hidden, or maybe just care a bit more about having them found out.
I, for example, was not too keen at spotting social clues about the acceptable things while growing up. I was always more interested in learning new stuff (I spent countless hours reading the encyclopedia). I never dressed properly or wore my hair right, and I always said the wrong things at the wrong times. I was normally the butt of jokes, but to me I think I learned to laugh at myself rather quickly and continued to chuckle it off, or store it deep down…this may be the source of all my rage about societal issues. My sisters (three of them) and classmates never failed to point out all my quirkiness, but I never thought in any way that I was different or strange. I just saw it as tough love, and maybe character development on the worst of days. For all I knew people may have looked at me like a freak, but I never got the message, I was too interested in creating my own world, yet I was also never labeled by a doctor as different either.
One autistic woman in the movie, who utilizes a text to speech program for correspondence is very fluent when typing yet has difficulty expressing herself verbally. I can promise you, if you ever met me in person I will not have much to say in the hopes of not sounding stupid. This is the same reason the woman didn’t like using speech and instead preferred typing. For me, I have a phenomenal memory, but I don’t recall very easily when speaking and find it difficult to formulate responses quickly so I remain “shy”. If I am allowed to write, though, it is as if the words just flow through my fingertips. These text to speech programs have completely changed the way that we look at some who where thought once to have been mentally retarded, because they did not talk. Now, that proper test can be conducted these seemingly unintelligent people have exceptional IQ’s and personalities to boot.
I have begun to take the same approach with my daughter who does have a diagnosis, and yet isn’t that much different from her peers (besides some of those same things that were noticeable in me as a child). Many adults don’t see any difference in her compared to the others. It was damned difficult to get special services at school in the beginning, because she wasn’t a “trouble maker” or disciplinary issue. This is of course was because instead of outwardly blaming others for her difficulties, she internalizes the turmoil and blames herself. This is similar for other girls with autism who usually do a good job of hiding their problems. Boys tend to show outward signs of dealing with all the chaos that can swirl around inside of them.
My perspective is completely different about children on the spectrum and once I started treating my daughter as an equal and allowed her to formulate a response then she is very bright and hilarious. She has much more confidence in herself and has excelled even more in becoming her own person. The more that we approach her like this the more comfortable she feels to peek out of her shell and interact with those around her.
I think we as a society probably need to start changing our perspectives and then teach this stuff to our children. Please, Please uphold in children respect along with many of the other lost virtues…(which is another post all together relating to a birthday girl’s slumber party).
I leave you with a really awesome documentary trailer: