I’ve written about autistic parenting before, both here and on Twitter. Considering how many confusing euphemisms that are commonly used when talking about autism, parenting and related topics, I’ve decided to try to explain what I mean.
As an autistic parent to an autistic child, I parent autisticly. This means that how I’m a parent is strongly influended by the fact that I am autistic AND that my kid is autistic. The autistic parenting, to me, has its core in that we are two autistic people trying to feel as good as possible as autistic people. For instance, I give myself the predictability, visual support, sensory friendly environment etc. that I need as an autistic person, and I give the equivalent kind of support to my kid. Sometimes it’s the same things, like when we both wear head phones. Sometimes it’s created in different ways, for instance, I use a tangle a lot and but when it comes to stim toys, my kid prefers chewing toys and fidget spinners.
The biggest difference between what I consider autistic parenting and being what’s frequently called an autism parent isn’t that I’m autistic, even though that matters too. The difference is that autistic parenting is about cherishing and appreciating autistic people and autistic culture. I have no interest in trying to make my kid appear allistic and we have no token systems or other ABA-influenced methods. Instead, we have autistic culture. But what does that mean?
As a parent, I introduce my kid to different forms of culture. I got him his first books when he was a baby, I introduced him to a tv show, to different kinds of customs and celebrations, food and so on. When doing this, I try to do it in a way that highlights and celebrates all the autistic culture we have around us. In our home, two of us are selective about food and it’s considered a valid way of being, not a problem. We have visual aids and stim toys in all rooms. We never have birthdays celebrations with a lot of people at the same time and wearing your softest pyjamas for your birthday party is totally reasonable, because the softer your clothes are the more energy you have to deal with having guests. We have a literal way of communicating and use written and picture-based communication with each other, even if we’re at home and could talk to each other by making noises with our mouths. Predictability and making sure everybody gets recovery time every day is key to our well being, and this is something that permeates how we organize our days.
This isn’t an exhaustive account of what I mean when I talk about autistic parenting, but some examples. To me, it’s important to highlight to myself that our way of living is autistic and as such, it has value. So many people that I have to relate to act as if our way of living is an inferior version of an allistic family, and writing this is simply a way of resisting that idea.