As part of my author-career development process, I’m supposed to create a signature speech based on my book. Embracing the Chaos of Autism is the working title of this speech. The premise of the speech is to use stories to teach others the importance of individual-focused treatments, with empowerment and development (versus cure and normalcy) as the goals of those treatments.
Basically, as a society we’ve focused a lot on principles—principles of parenting, principles of education, principles of self-development—which suggest that a universal approach or structure works (or should work) for everyone. In raising my three children with autism, I have had to set aside most of these principles. Instead, I focus on my child, his needs, and the strategies and techniques that work for him—each of them require a different, individual focus.
My goal is not to get my child to a point where those “universal” principles can become successful. Instead, my goal is to empower my child—as he is, for who is he—to reach his unique, individual potential.
This individual focus seems so simple, and yet the difference is remarkable. There’s this belief that seems to hang around parent circles that the goal is to make a disabled child “indistinguishable” from his or her peers. Everybody should just be like everybody else, right? Yet, parents of typical children are often driven to make their child “distinguished.”
So, when does it end? Why are we so driven to make our children something they’re not, instead of helping them grow into the exceptional, wonderful, awesome people that they are?
We don’t have to accept the norms of parenting. We don’t have to strive to be normal. Autism isn’t normal, but there is a “normal” for each individual with autism. Maximizing that “normal” for the best benefit of the child makes for stronger children, stronger families, and stronger communities.