I had an argument with myself yesterday.
I was thinking about this whole process I'm beginning for setting up G's future.
How I want him to have all the support he needs. And all the respect.
If you’re reading this, you probably have your reasons for doing so — and you probably understand some of the paradoxes of living with difference.
But yesterday my critical self — representing both a certain logic AND people who just don’t get it — accused me of trying to have it both ways.
I want G to have a safety net and scaffolding that will help him stay healthy and on point with his studies and/or work. That means federal, state, local, community, and family resources. And it means I will advocate and fight for these resources…
I will do so even as I believe in his capacities to thrive, succeed on his own terms, and even excel on a wider scale — and will also advocate and fight for his equality on every level.
He’s autistic and he’s brilliant. Partly, he’s brilliant because he’s autistic. Yes, without pressure he might never clean his room or his body again; yes, I hope someday that won’t be the case. But do you need to know anything — anything at all — about birds, Pokemon, ‘90s punk funk, or Magic the Gathering?
He doesn’t self-regulate vis-a-vis screen, sleep, food, etc. and he doesn’t self-regulate being friendly, loving, corny, and generous. For the foreseeable future, he will continue to need sensitive and wise supervision in a lot of the basics. But do you need a hug, a smile, a laugh, someone to look at you with eyes and heart utterly devoid of judgment?
Think of all the ways people without extraordinary differences are helped out by other individuals and institutions, from federal poverty programs to local business initiatives, from recovery groups to the uptick in adult children living at home. We all need help!
But being different is complicated. The types of public and private assistance that are commonly available are often predicated on being unable to do things that people “should” be able to do. Well, I’d like to note (not for the first or last time) that our G — like so many of his fellow “non-typical” people — can do a lot of things that not just anyone could.
Because society is the way it is (have you heard of the social model of disability?), he will need and deserve plenty of support and scaffolding if we are going to find out what he is truly capable of. At the same time, he will need and deserve a lot of respect and encouragement. All of these needs are valid and worthy because he's a disabled/differently-abled person, a twice-exceptional individual…a complex, complete human being.
Figure I - Valued Contributing Member of Society
Figure II - Person Whose Needs are Valid and Worthy
My hope is that G can be sustained by his environment in such a way that he can use his unique skills to become a valued contributing member of society. If that’s having it both ways, so be it.
Full Spectrum Mama
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