Otherwise entitled: “Parents Defend Damaging Autism Parent Memoirs”
Two people, so far, have directly responded to my concerns about the spread of damaging “autism parent memoirs” with the idea that Autistic adults don’t want parents to “have a voice” or write at all in the first place.
It’s possible that some of us do want autism parents to completely stop writing, but that’s not the sentiment I’ve seen at all. Most of us are concerned primarily because these books are damaging our community and spreading further misinformation that is used to abuse, murder, and otherwise mistreat both Autistic adults and children.
“But what about free speech?”
But what about the fact that I’m using my free speech to spread the word that these books are dangerous to Autistic people and you’re trying to shut that down by using the “free speech” argument while defending the rights of people to speak freely with words that directly harm me and people like me?
“They should be able to share their perspectives too!”
Um, maybe? I guess. But perhaps, since they’re writing about a marginalized, abused, and mistreated group of people they should remember to tread lightly and carefully as they do it.
Furthermore, these parents are sharing many of these damaging things as facts and not as opinions/experiences. It’s one thing to have fleeting thoughts of, say, sterilizing one’s child in a really dark moment; but when an author writes a bestselling book including that idea without also providing some post-damaging-thought critique, it becomes dangerous.
Furthermore, these books are harming the authors’ children in a variety of ways. Violations of privacy galore, including anecdotes that may very well render their children less employable or easier targets of bullying than they might otherwise have been and that harm could be easily avoided!
Why not write anonymously? (I’m doing it!) It’s not glamorous, no, but if the goal truly is to help other parents, then it seems to be a reasonable choice.
Why not be more vague about the situations that could cause the most harm to their children in both the present and future? Oh, but then it might not be as tantalizing and one couldn’t very well call it “uncensored” even if it’s still completely truthful.
Better to just throw the kid under the metaphorical bus rather than compromise on sharing the most scandalous details of how horrifying you find it to live with an Autistic child. (that sentence is very sarcastic)
Another sentiment I’ve seen in response to our concerns is the idea that these books are somehow helpful for parents to read.
I… I have so much trouble with this sentiment. My initial response was to shout, “Bullshit!” loudly while flapping and hopping up and down because that much bullshit requires some outlet, let me tell you. But upon further thought, I have more words about this too.
I’m a parent. I don’t find these books to be helpful. I find them to be child abuse manuals. If you want an example of how NOT to raise an Autistic child, then by all means, make a thorough study of books like “To Siri” and “Autism Uncensored.”
But please, for the love of all that is good and Autistic in the world, do not look to these kinds of books for advice on how TO parent.
Books that are helpful parenting books, furthermore, do NOT have to include embarrassing details about the author’s children. I’ve read many dozens of parenting and childhood development books in my life and the books that advocated for gentle and respectful methods all walked the walk in that they also respected their children’s privacy.
Oddly enough, none of the bestselling parenting books I’ve read about being a gentler parent talked about parenting disabled and/or Autistic children in these ways.
I suspect that this is simply another part of the issue I noticed last year with otherwise “peaceful” or “gentle” parents who changed their methodologies for only their Autistic children because we couldn’t possibly benefit from being respected as children. Instead we must be forced to conform to society’s expectations or else!
The books that I’ve read specifically about parenting Autistic children in respectful ways have, sadly, not been best sellers at all. In fact, hardly anyone I tell about them has ever heard of them before.
This has to change. The fact that any parents of Autistic children think that these memoirs are helpful in any way for parenting instruction or “support” is so very wrong and dangerous.
These books aren’t getting better either. They appear to be getting instead worse. More shocking revelations! More abuse! More violations of privacy! More extreme martyrdom! And even more defensive/offensive responses from authors (& their spouses) to the concerns of Autistic adults.
As an antidote, here’s my very boring description of how there were multiple meltdowns in my house yesterday, first links then text:
And in text:
It’s interesting to me (as an Autistic parent, especially) that so many people apparently get a “parents should stop writing” message out of Autistic adults’ concerns surrounding these books when I haven’t seen really anyone suggest such a thing.
I’m writing publicly online, as a parent, after all. Nobody in the Autistic community has approached me with concern over my writings, but I also respect my children’s privacy (using a pseudonym and being careful about what I write) and don’t assume their intentions.
There were three, very nearly four, meltdowns in my house yesterday from various people. The very nearly fourth was my own. But my children were struggling and I treated them with kindness and compassion and tried to minimize their distress.
There’s just not a whole lot of call for writing about being compassionate towards Autistic children melting down, sadly. It wouldn’t make for a bestseller, I’m fairly certain. It’s not very dramatic, for one thing, because I don’t give lurid details.
It’s also just normal for us. It’s what we do.
We prepare before we go places, we find alternative forms of communication whenever necessary, we stim with reckless abandon no matter where we are, & we are currently saving up to order noise cancelling headphones for EVERYONE.
It’s not exciting, but it’s good parenting (IMO, obviously). Respectful parenting doesn’t sell. It’s boring and there’s no one-size fits all when one treats one’s children with respect.
Actually helpful parenting resources for parents of Autistic children:
The Real Experts – Book from Autonomous Press