The Fear of Autism
When I first found out I was pregnant, I, like many other parents-to-be decided to join a baby forum. These sites have “Birth Boards” where you can socialise with other mums and dads who are expecting arrivals in the same month as you. Useful, I thought.
I didn’t contribute a lot, I mainly lurked and posted the occasional reply, much like real life, but I enjoyed being able to track progress and relate to other people’s symptoms from a distance. It is all quite “fluffy” and harmless throughout pregnancy and the early days of birth, but as our children began to age the boards slowly evolved into a state of perpetual worry regarding child development and what is “normal”.
On the general development side of things, I think some people’s expectations are way too high for such young children, and out of touch with reality. Every child is different, whether neurotypical or neurodivergent and although I can see why it is easy to fall into the trap of comparing in the age of the internet, ultimately, how does knowing that a baby walked or talked before yours benefit you?
Is your child sitting yet? Crawling? Walking? Pointing? Waving? TALKING? Oh, mine isn’t doing that. That can’t be normal. They have tantrums all the time. They don’t understand me. What is wrong with them? Is it Autism? It must be! They’ll never be able to get married, have children or get a job. Oh, no! I’ll be caring for them forever!
As a married, Autistic mother, this shit gives me the rage, and I find it hard not to take it personally. It’s like we are aliens and they don’t realise we are among them. To be spoken about as though we are defective is hurtful. Yes, I have emotions, too.
Autism is not a death sentence. It is not something to be feared, and it doesn’t have to be the worst case scenario. Many of us are as capable of living happy and fruitful lives, and it might take more effort, but we can get there, so don’t mourn us, help us make it happen.
If your child is Autistic, there is nothing you can do (or could have done) to change it, so stop worrying about whether or not they might be on the spectrum. Stop looking for signs that there is something wrong and look at everything that is right about your child. Of course get them help if they need it, a diagnosis is critical if it applies, but love and embrace them for who they are. They are the same person they have always been and can achieve great things with your support.
I’m not going to pretend that life will be easy, downplaying the struggle doesn’t benefit anyone, but please remember that eventually, Autistic children grow into Autistic adults, and I am sure you know a few of us without realising!