Labels are a necessary evil, I realize that.
Even within the autism community, distinctions can be divisive. Ever since the term Asperger’s was swallowed up by the broader ASD umbrella in the latest version of the DSM, those distinctions have become more marked, and the effect on parents can be polarizing.
As a mom to a child who previously may have been called an Aspie, I cringe every time I hear the terms ‘high functioning’ and ‘low functioning.’
Autism is not a competition. It’s a spectrum, with challenges common enough to fall under the same diagnostic family tree, yet different enough for the grass to seem greener on the other side.
That’s not to say the high-functioning child (or indeed his parents) has it easy. Maybe the media is to blame for having assigned a kind of geek chic to Asperger’s in recent years. As a parent, I try to focus on the positives, since they are many — such as my little guy’s affectionate nature, his brilliant mind and his unique sense of humor.
I have made my peace (for the most part) with autism. I don’t regard his way of being as a tragedy or a disaster. But because he’s high functioning, some people may assume that he — and by extension, I — must be lucky. After all, my boy can speak and can toilet independently. So yes, on some level, I am lucky. But then, like everything in life, luck is relative, isn’t it?
Did I feel lucky the time my 6-year-old grabbed me by the ears and hair and pulled as hard as he could? Or the time he left me with a bloody lip?
Do I feel lucky when he throws his glass of milk, the iPad and numerous household items? Or the countless occasions he says rude or outlandish things to friends, family and strangers?
Yes, as a matter of fact I do feel lucky, because I love him, he’s an amazing kid, and I try not to make a habit of airing my dirty laundry in public. Even so, it has a habit of piling up.
My son’s struggles may be categorically different than that of another child’s on the spectrum, but they are still struggles.
And as his mom, I’m on the same roller-coaster of ups and downs that other parents with autistic kids ride. I just happen to be sitting in a different spot.
Julie M Green is a Toronto-based writer who regularly contributes to The Huffington Post, The Globe and Mail, Metro, Today’s Parent, ParentsCanada, and Yummy Mummy Club. She blogs about having a young son with autism at Other Side of the Coin. Visit juliemgreen.ca
This article was featured in Issue 37 – Making Educational Strides