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When I started writing these posts well over a year ago, I had two things in mind.

First, I wanted to write about how my ASD son and elementary school. I wanted to talk about how the environment was safe, and the efforts required to make it safe for him. The efforts are not small, and they're not about punishment. If the environment does not feel safe for almost all of the children in it - including those who bully - it frequently fails.

It's vastly easier to make the household a safe environment. It involves far fewer people, and far fewer cultural contexts.

Second, I wanted to write about my own experiences with an ASD child, because I know a lot of people out there are facing some of the same difficulties, and they often feel isolated. By putting these posts up, I wanted to let people know, for a few minutes at a time, that they were not alone.

What I did not expect was that people who don't have - and don't want - children would find them interesting. I did not expect that people who are like my son would find them interesting; that these articles - which are written from my perspective as a parent - would speak to their experiences as someone on the spectrum. As all unexpected gifts, this makes me happy.

However: I want to make a couple of things clear.

Advice about parenting is tricky. In some ways it's like advice about writing. No two children are alike. No two books are alike. The process to raise a child or write a book are both therefore unique. Is there overlap? Yes, because we're all people. We have a lot in common, especially when it comes to our fears and worries.

There is nothing more irritating than the theoretically well-meaning person who walks up to you out of the blue to give you advice on parenting--frequently because you are, in their opinion, doing it wrong. Reading books on parenting isn't the same: that's advice that you've sought out, and the entire experience is between you and the page; you can look for the elements that resonate with your experiences, and you can pick and choose the elements that work for you. It's the same with writing advice: you can pick and choose.

The internet walks a line between these two things: random advice given by strangers, and the advice you seek when you go looking for it.

In the past week, I've seen people beating themselves up because they've come across a few 'how-to-write' advice posts. These posts are great and they have a lot of information in them that's entirely individual - but writers see them and feel deflated. They feel unproductive, or lazy, or incompetent. Which is pretty unhelpful, all round.

In the past several years, I've seen similar - but more intense - reactions to parenting posts and how-tos.

I wanted to make clear, then, that these posts are not meant to be advice in the traditional sense. You are not me, and the things that you will find sensible and comfortable will of course be coming out of your own space and your own experience. They will come out of your house, your work, your extended family and your support network - or your lack of support network.

Which is to say: Your son is not my son and you are not me. The very last thing I want as a take-away from these posts is to make you somehow feel like you're doing it wrong, or that I'm criticizing you. It's hard enough to parent on some days without also beating yourself up; we all have days where we beat ourselves up over things we think, in retrospect, we should have done differently. I don’t want to inadvertently become one of the clubs by which other parents do this to themselves.

Also: if anyone has any questions about anything I've written, ask them here, and I'll try to answer them. If you don't want to ask them with identifiers, ask them anonymously, or ask them in email.


Jun. 7th, 2012 04:45 am (UTC)
Thank you again for these, btw. I am personally childfree with no desire to have kids of my own, but there are a lot of things that you have talked about with your son that I have seen in myself and my sister (now that I have insurance again, going to be looking at seeing a psych qualified to evaluate for ASD).

While I have definitely read parents talking about their kid's ASD that came across preaching or trying to tell people how they should be doing things, I don't think I ever got that impression from anything that you have said. You've always gone out of your way to regularly add the disclaimer that this is your son, and not all ASD kids are the same. (Lord, just the variation between myself and my sister was huge.)

I understand why you want to clarify, though, and appreciate that you did. But, in case you were worried that you might be coming off as preachy... I don't think you were :)
Jun. 8th, 2012 02:16 am (UTC)
But, in case you were worried that you might be coming off as preachy... I don't think you were :)

It’s something I worry about sometimes because when I’m over-focused I speak very definitely, so thank you for this.
Jun. 8th, 2012 02:19 pm (UTC)
What Nonny said.

I'm also childfree (and too old to start now), but my nephew is 5 going on 6 and is in the autism spectrum, so I've become more aware of the difficulties he's going to face. Reading your posts have made me more aware of what my brother-in-law and sister-in-law are having to deal with on a regular basis with their son.

I've also passed along your posts to a coworker, since we work in education reform and she deals specifically with school climate issues.