A post about the "Diary of a Mom"; my autistic daughter

As a specialist dyslexia teacher and assessor, one of the most common narratives I stand up to and fight against (almost daily in one way or another) is the idea that people with so called learning difficulties, are different, have difficulty or (worse) are disabled.


Now every human has their own strengths and weaknesses. Some people with specific strengths are suited to certain jobs. For example you wouldn’t become a surgeon if you didn’t have an immense ability to work under pressure, remember a lot of detail from your medical training or be able to relate your knowledge of the human anatomy to your scalpel.

Likewise, you wouldn’t become an accountant if you weren’t comfortable manipulating and working with numbers. You wouldn’t become a chef unless you could see how ingredients could work together to create a tasty end result in the food you make. When you really stop to compare these professions, there isn’t necessarily one that is better than the other. I think we would probably all agree that each job demands a different skill set and therefore a different kind of person. There aren’t many people who could do all of these jobs in their life time- that would be really really rare.


So where am I going with this? Well, it’s normal for people to do different jobs because of their individual strengths and the world needs VARIETY! Without a huge variety of skills we would be stuck, lost; one huge element of our society wouldn’t work. There simply wouldn't be the right people thriving in jobs that they're good at, or that fulfill them.


So why is it that we judge a person with SEND so differently?


A person with a learning difference just doesn’t suit our standardised global education system and the way we judge our children’s progress. In education, children are largely judged on what they can read, interpret, understand and analyse. They are also judged on how well they write and get their ideas onto paper. On top of this we ask children to work in a setting where there are complex, challenging social situations that just may not suit them. But we don’t expect adults to function in situations that don’t suit them. Why is it so so different in education?


I am not saying I have the answers right now, or that I ever will. But this is a concept we need to explore, debate, discuss and raise. What I do think about often, is the way that we judge children in society through exams and tests in school, seems to generate this idea that they are different from the norm if they don’t perform well - or what is perceived to be "well" within the boundaries of our assessments in education. But when we reach adulthood; wider society does not reflect this reality! We need to flip ideas on their heads and look at them from different perspectives so that we can start to shift the views and perspectives that the so called "neurotypical" human has over another with a totally different skill set and strengths. “They” - people with dyslexia, dysgraphia, autism, ADHD and so on, are not “less than”. It's no surprise that so many of the world's millionaires who have a lot of impact and who can do a lot of good for society; actually have a diagnosed "learning difficulty." It also does not matter that people with these skills sets are different! How full would it be if we all had the same strengths and weaknesses. Different can be EXCEPTIONAL!

People with a diagnosed special educational need are not less than and they are not different. They are special because the education system globally doesn’t suit them and therefore, they don't thrive in our education system. But surely this just highlights the rigidity of the way we educate our children? Our entire education system and our societal views of people with "learning differences", need to change.


I found this post from Katie Foster online from Diary of a mom, and it sums up this idea perfectly. I’m going to read it to you, go check out the Diary of a Mom Facebook page and I’ll also post the link below.


My daughter is not ‘typical.’


Trying to force her to be something that she’s not doesn’t work.


Let’s play a game, shall we?


Hey, mom, you need to be autistic now.


What?


Don’t worry; we’ll show you how. We’re going to give you therapy to make you autistic.


But I’m not autistic.


Not relevant.


But ..


We’re going to teach you to act autistic. All. The. Time.


But ..that’s not who I am.


Yeah, we know, but you’re going to have to get used to it.


But it’s NOT WHO I AM.


No, it’s not, but it’s who you need to at least appear to be if you’re going to succeed in this world.


WHAT??


**


It hurts to be told - and shown - that who you are is not okay.


That how you experience the world is ... wrong.


That how you act is … wrong.


That how you express excitement, show fear, communicate joy, share sadness, and, and, and ... are wrong.


It is a life of No.


It is an environment of negative, toxic energy.


No.


No.


No.


A gummy bear for suppressing your natural instincts.


A sticker on a chart for mastering a facade.


It is exhausting.


It doesn’t work.


We cannot be who we aren’t.


Even if we can pretend well enough to convince the panel of judges.


Pretending to be someone you aren’t isn’t a life.


It hurts.


So I will not strive for normalcy for my autistic child.


It’s an asinine and dangerous goal.


Low self-esteem.


Depression.


Alcoholism.


Drug abuse.


Suicide.


I’ve seen them all.


And I emphatically reject that trajectory.


My daughter is not ordinary.


She is not typical.


She is not a standard-issue human.


She’s much, much more.


So I will do everything I can to arm her with the tools that she needs to get by in a world that doesn’t fit.


I will teach her what will be expected of her in every situation I can think to include.


And I will tell her, by word and by deed, that her quest is not to make others comfortable, but to find the space in which both she and others can be as comfortable as possible, together.


That it is not a one-way street.


That she has every right to say, in her way, ‘The fact that I don’t fit the mold doesn’t mean that I’m the wrong shape. It means that we need a more flexible mold.’


I once believed that normalcy was our goal.


No more.


Now, we strive to appreciate and celebrate and foster that which is, truly, extraordinary.


You can check out Katie's facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/adiaryofamom and find her blog at https://adiaryofamom.com/

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