I'm a person. I'm just like everyone else and I don't have all the answers for every situation for every family.
What I might implement in my home with my family might be detrimental to yours and really unhelpful.
What's most important to me is encouraging and supporting families to tap into the courage and inner guidance of what is and isn't right for them.
This isn't simple. It isn't a quick fix. It's complex and involves reflecting on privilege, among many other sociopolitical aspects of living.
But here's what I would love for people to reflect on:
We're not "treating autism" here; we're addressing what is often intergenerational trauma, addiction, eating disorders, neglect and abuse, institutionalisation, and that's just a start.
We're learning to feel. To think. To access that healthy critical thinking around what we've been taught as people, as neurodivergent folks, as parents, as partners, as children, as educators, as allied health professionals, as grandparents, etc etc.
We're unravelling, unlearning, undoing.
We're laying it all out, piece by piece and sitting with pain.
We're grieving the loss of what could have been for us, for our ancestors, what can be and how to find the strength to create that change.
We're putting parts back together, we're rebuilding.
We're letting things go: patterns, habits, people, places, things, coping mechanisms.
It hurts. It's confusing. it's confronting.
We're developing new foundations with materials not provided by others, but from the little we have left from our undoing.
We're challenging ourselves, our belief systems, we're seeing and acknowledging and identifying how in our own pain, in our ignorance, we've projected bits and pieces onto others and we've really hurt them.
We're people who are just surviving, navigating healing pathways from our own trauma whilst navigating being sorry for the trauma we've caused our children and others we love.
We're taking responsibility for stuff that should never have been ours to carry. But we're left with no choice but to do so if we want to live.
This is never just about "how do I get my child to attend school?" or "how can I encourage my child to eat more vegetables?" or "how can I change the way my child expresses their rage?"..
Those are the waves on top of the ocean.
Let's try these on instead: "How can I get other adults who should be more accepting and understanding of diversity to stop targeting, threatening, intimidating, excluding, punishing, othering and abusing my family when my children cannot attend school?", or "Where can I find a reassuring, kind, supportive and collaborative therapist for my child who will not judge, criticise, parent blame and shame, humiliate and degrade my parenting; further disempowering me and disconnecting me from my child?" or "Where can I access the care and support I need to be strong enough for when my children aren't coping? Where can I find support that is kind, nurturing and realises my need for recovery and rest?".
Some days the waves are calmer than others; other days the entire ocean is disturbed, moved and unsafe to enter.
In order to thrive as neurodivergent families, we don't get to just continue on in our socially acceptable niceties. We don't get to dress our children up in pretty outfits and tie ribbons in their hair whilst smoothing out the wrinkles of their perceived deficits.
This work is ours.
It belongs to us.
Will our struggle be less if our autistic, ADHD, PDA children learn to use their manners, communicate their feelings in neuronormative ways?
Will our friends still invite us to the BBQs? Our family stop giving us unsolicited advice? Educational institutions suddenly create space for our babies in meaningful, compassionate and inclusive ways?
Am I distressed because my child is autistic? Or am I distressed because I worked my arse off all of my life to be accepted and now that I can't control my child's behaviour or difference everything I worked my arse off for will no longer suffice?
This isn't about our children.
This work is ours.
Whether we are autistic or not, we all mask.
We all want to belong.
We thrust ourselves into situations we know will be challenging, but we want to prove to ourselves we're worthy, we can do this..
The school Mum cliques and the PTA meetings, diet culture and hurtful relationships.
Fitting in. Looking the part. Productivity. Achievement. Saving Face. Covering Up. People pleasing.
No. This is never just about our autistic children.
It's about us. We all need to be supported. All of us.
We need to be loved. Encouraged. Reassured. Welcomed. To belong.
Will we find this in a cis-hetero patriarchal classist, racist, sexist, capitalist society?
Or will we find it in the courageous, collaborative ways we connect wth one another and create new pathways together; sharing our lives selflessly and generously, the good, the bad and the downright bloody ugly?
If you're raising autistic, ADHD, PDA, ODD, anxious, any kind of neurodivergent child and you are struggling, you are NOT alone.
But skimming over our children's ways and perceiving them as disturbances in a foundation built upon behaviourism is what contributes to that pain; and I know, we've been told otherwise.
For a really long time.
Our beautiful babies are born into a world where this pain already exists. It's not theirs. They can't fix it. But they sure as hell will trigger what already lies within by being unapologetically themselves.
Remember the analogy about the waves on the surface of the ocean, ever changing? Our children are the ones diving in, asking all the questions about what lies beneath when we the adults have been told to never ask. And it puts us at risk.
Nothing will change until we dive in with them.
I can't tell you how to parent your children because I haven't met them and because they're people. Individuals.
They show us who they are, what they need and how to help them grow when we listen.
Forget the word autism. Forget the generic frameworks and perceived "deficits".
Forget the world for a moment and see your humanness and that of your child.
That is the perfect beginning point.
Image Description: One of Kristy's children from a family holiday to the beach basks in the sunshine and the beauty of the ocean. She is stimming with her hand in front of her face, laughing, the wind is blowing back her hair and she is wearing pink headphones.
The image has been edited to reflect a painting.
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