The cultural landscape has changed a great deal in the past decade since I began my journey with autism. When autism first entered my family's life, the outlook was bleak and there wasn't much hope given from the establishment. Thankfully, I did discover a few books written by people on the autism spectrum themselves that shone a ray of hope and allowed me to expand my perimeters of normalcy and that began my journey acceptance.
About 5 years ago I began to see TV chat shows sharing new stories about how kindly neuro-typical kids were helping to address the stigma of autism by stepping in the stop bullying or to just sit beside a child with autism in the lunchroom. From there the media seemed to sink low into sad story "click bait" about how no one attended an autistic child's birthday party or how an autistic child was being mistreated by teachers or support workers. Not a terribly positive or uplifting message, but I guess at least autism was getting some coverage and on the radar?! Thankfully these days I am finding more and more articles about autism rights and inclusion, even success stories. Heck, there are even TV shows like The Good Doctor where the main character is on the spectrum. Wow, now this is real progress!
One book that was ahead of the curve was Jonathan Alderson's Challenging the Myths of Autism: Unlock New Possibilities and Hope. It was a book that was exactly the tone I needed at a time in my parenting that I felt a bit hopeless (this is a feeling that I imagine crops up for many of us). The book was hopeful, informative and uplifting. It examines commonly held beliefs about autism that many of us, including us parents may unknowingly hold. There were some really eye opening chapters, particularly around topics like stimming and repetitive behaviors. When you can see purpose and function in a child's seemingly challenging behaviors, this helps to reframe your interactions and improve your genuine connection with that child. And when you can see purpose in ones actions, it allows you to see the beauty in their uniqueness. It was a great read at the end of some very tough days.
“Stop thinking about normal…You don’t have a big enough imagination for what your child can become,” Johnny Seitz, autistic tightrope artists in the movie Loving Lamposts.