HOW TO DEAL WITH AN AUTISTIC CHILD. A GUIDE FOR PARENTS.
If you have read my story Ghosts From The Past, you will have seen the potential consequences of not educating a child about their ancestry. Some blame for that must lie at the feet of a government that had a racially selective immigration policy, and a shameful policy of removing children from their parents if they were Aboriginal or if one of the parents was part-Aboriginal (having made the last point, I support the right of a person who had one Aboriginal grandparent, great-grandparent or even great-great-grandparent to choose whether to identify as Aboriginal or even white with a touch of Aboriginal. I have some West Indian ancestry and identify as having “a touch” of West Indian) but in this person’s case, he was not subjected to such things and nor would he have been denied re-entry into Australia if he had travelled overseas.
So, when I hear of people asking whether or not to tell their children that they have been diagnosed as autistic, my response is, yes, but be mindful of their strengths and do NOT, and I repeat, do NOT, impose low expectations. If you have a child who is autistic who is not good at sport, don’t try to force them to be good at sport. If you have a child who is good at maths, or science, or history, or whatever else, encourage them with that.
If you have a child who is autistic, remember, your child needs you to be their advocate. So, if your child tells you they’re being bullied, it is up to you, as the parent, to take it up with the school. If you child has a teacher who is making life difficult for them, it is up to you, as the parent, to either take it up with the school or change schools. (I remember, when I was 20, and was about to start my third year of university, my Year Five teacher, who was still at my old primary school after 15 years (she came when I was in Year One, but I was at another school) was about to start another year at the school, and my mother rang a friend of hers who had a child about to go into a class that she was going to teach, to tell her that my former teacher had been transferred to another school, effective immediately. My Year Five teacher was a lazy, uncommitted teacher who saw her role as being the classroom bully and did not do anything to encourage students. The principal had been trying to get rid of her, but she kept objecting, so he did it in a way that she was told, accept the transfer or seek alternative employment. This friend of my mother’s did not have an autistic child, I will add, and my Year Five teacher lacked both the patience and the level of commitment required to teach an autistic student. The only virtue my Year Five teacher had, in my view, was her political activism regarding animal liberation, but she did not teach in a way that allowed us to make up our own minds, she stood up in front of the class and directed us on what to say to write to particular politicians and other influential people and told us to go home and tell our parents not to give us meat, not to buy caged eggs and what brands of milk to buy).
I have read about and heard about parents who have thrown their children out of the family home because the child has come out as LGBTIQA, or even given the children an ultimatum, to attend Gay Conversion Therapy or be forced out. Gay Conversion Therapy is on par with ABA, and I would strongly urge any parent not to send their child to ABA. When you become a parent, you have no say over the sex of the child, the eye or hair colour of the child or the sexual orientation of the child, you have to accept what you are given. Similarly, if you have an autistic child, you have to accept the neurology of that child. The only difference between having a child who is LGBTIQA and autistic, apart from the neurology and sexual orientation, is that your child tells you that they’re LGBTIQA, whilst a diagnostician will tell you that your child is autistic. And autistic sexual orientation is the same as anybody else’s.
I also remember, when I was in Year One, my teacher told us (even though I misunderstood) that a little boy in our class was adopted. She told us that his mother wanted a child and his father did, too, but they couldn’t have children, so they adopted him. Parents shouldn’t fabricate things and say, “When you were born, it was this, this and this,” if the child is adopted, and nor should the agencies or orphanages say, “Your parents didn’t want you,” what the adoptive parents should say is, “We walked into the nursery and we saw that you were the most beautiful baby in there and we wanted to take you home.” I have a second cousin who was adopted within the family. My great-uncle and aunty had her and they couldn’t afford her, so they asked my great-aunty, who was unable to have children, if she and my great-uncle, could adopt her. She knew that my great-uncle was her birth father, and my grandfather was her father figure, especially after my great-aunty and uncle died.
So, just like you can imagine the emotional rollercoaster of an adult looking through their parents’ effects after they died and stumbling upon adoption papers, or an adult having to give details of their parents’ deaths for a death certificate only to find that their grandmother’s birth surname was Chinese or Aboriginal in origin, just imagine what it would be like if your child looked through your papers as an adult and learnt that you had kept their autism diagnosis from them and they learnt that there was a reason why they were different and action could have been taken to help them but it wasn’t. By all means, tell your child that they’re autistic, but two things you MUST NOT do, are, a) try to force them to be neurotypical or be into sports when they’re not, and b) set low expectations. Find out what your child likes and what their strengths are and encourage them. That is the best thing a parent of an autistic child can do!