I feel like I need to elaborate on this. Or, rather, clear the air.
I received a few responses to a previous post called “What if” where I discussed my fears about telling my daughter she has autism. I think you have to be a parent to fully understand what I am saying. Not a parent of a kid on the spectrum either, but just a parent.
And this is why. We all want what is best for our children. We all want them to grow up well rounded. Happy. Lively. And reaching for the stars. Sometimes the outside world has a way of messing that up; and sometimes things within the walls of your own home have a way of messing that up too.
I felt as if I was stuck between a rock and a hard place. Telling my selectively-verbal daughter, at the age of six, that she has autism was what made me feel this way. And NOT because of any reservations about the neurological variation on my part, but because of the cruel place this world tends to be.
I was afraid if I told her the outside world would eventually come rushing in and she would be able to put a name to the difference and thus learn of the stigma attached to it at an earlier age; which in turn (without the right supports in place) could turn into negative self-image issues.
I was afraid that if I didn’t tell her (yet) that the secrets hidden in the walls of my own home would have a lasting effect. She would equate my silence on the topic as something to be ashamed of or something to be hushed up and swept under the carpet; which in turn (without the right supports in place) could turn into negative self-image issues.
Can you now see my rock, and can you see my hard place? Can you now see the deep rooted desire to protect and shield my child?
It was never an issue of lying. And it was never an issue of not telling, as much as it was an issue of when.
And, I have NOT withheld Mia’s diagnosis from her, but I have never sat her down at the kitchen table to discuss it either. She has been privy to many a conversation on the topic of autism. It is not a hushed up word in my home – to the contrary it shapes most everything. And Mia is a very perceptive child. I wouldn’t be surprised if she didn’t already know. But that is not right. She should not have to learn of this by overhearing snippets of conversations she is not a part of. She should not have to overhear conversations where I am championing every single Autistic I know while not properly discussing, or supporting my daughter in her own life with autism.
You see, my attitude towards autism will (hopefully) shape hers.
So, I will tell her. Although, I do not know which words to use and I definitely do not know at which moment. Or, what response it will generate. Tell her I will, nevertheless.
She deserves to learn this information from me, sooner rather than later. And once again, I have been taught a valuable lesson from an Autistic person. And that lesson was to always, always treat them as equals. Because they are.
In ending, I would like to apologize to anyone that may have perceived my notions of withholding information from my daughter as faulty or worse yet, despicable. I can only tell you that I forever have her best interests at heart – her and the whole of the Autism Community.