The final post in the autistic motherhood series is posted at Autism Women’s Network: Autistic Motherhood: Honoring Our Personal Choices
It was a challenging one to write. My original thought was “I’ll write about the decision to have or not have children as an autistic woman.” Which turns out to be an incredibly personal and complex topic. You’d think I would have seen that coming, right?
Ultimately, what I concluded, is that each woman’s choice when it comes to parenthood is the best choice for her and each person’s situation is unique. There is no “decision” in the broad conceptual sense, just many individual decisions made for countless reasons and sometimes not for any particular reason at all. I hope that comes across in the article, because I very much want it to be respectful of our choices and of the circumstances that are unique to parenting as a disabled person.
A Postscript to the Series
There’s also something that I wanted to address at some point in this series–something that’s been on mind for months as I’ve been writing about motherhood–but I never found a way to say that I felt comfortable with. Since I’m among friends here, I’m going to just throw it out there as food for thought and hope for the best. Continue reading Honoring Our Choices
My local library has a big collection of autism books and I’m slowly working my way through them. I just finished reading one about how parents can help their autistic teen transition into adulthood. It was a fairly thick book, packed with information on friendship, dating, high school, college, work and living independently. Curiously, the only mention of marriage and parenting was a few pages acknowledging that some autistic people get married and even have children (who, the book suggested, would have very difficult lives, as they were more likely to be autistic themselves, on top of having an autistic parent). It concluded with a sentence lamenting how little we know about married autistic people because the topic just hasn’t been the subject of enough studies. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or throw the book across the room.
But I kept reading because the transition to adulthood is important and I’m always looking for good books to add to my resources page.
There was a chapter on “living situations” near the end of the book. As I read through all of the possible living situations that the authors suggested an autistic person might find themselves in, I noticed a glaring omission. There was information about living with a parent or a caregiver, living in a group home or facility, living with a roommate or living alone. But there was no mention that an autistic teen might grow up to live with a partner or spouse, let alone with children of their own. And that got me thinking about why autistic parents are so often invisible.
There seems to be a tacit assumption that if we can manage to find ourselves a partner or spouse and have children, we’re just “not autistic enough” to need any sort of support services. This month’s article at Autism Women’s Network, Motherhood: Autistic Parenting and Supports That Make a Difference, rejects that notion and looks at some of the supports that can make a difference in the lives of autistic parents, especially moms on the spectrum.
I’m sure you can guess what my answer to that question is. My post this month at Autism Women’s Network, Understanding the Gender Gap: Autistic Women and Girls, outlines some key ways in which autistic girls and women often don’t fit the traditional diagnostic models for autism and Asperger’s syndrome. In part, this is because the traditional models were developed primarily by observing autistic boys.
For anyone who reads the article, I have a few questions. If you identify as female, do you think the traits I listed in the article fit you? Do you think including traits like that in the diagnostic model would make it easier for someone like yourself to be diagnosed? If you identify as male (or not female), do you feel like any of the traits also fit you?
I’m asking that last question because it also occurred to me that part of the problem with applying the current diagnostic model to adult women is that it was developed based on autistic children. When I started researching Asperger’s syndrome, I kept coming across information aimed at screening children and had trouble seeing myself in the most commonly mentioned traits. By the time we reach adulthood, we’ve often made a lot of adaptations that conceal our autistic traits. So I suspect that some of the social traits in particular might also apply to many adults, regardless of gender. I’m also curious what other traits you think should be part of the diagnostic criteria or how the diagnostic criteria could be modified to be more inclusive.
And finally, I’m taking next week off to go visit my daughter. Enjoy the rest of November and if you celebrate Thanksgiving, have a great one!
I’m very excited to announce that I’ve been invited to contribute monthly articles to the Autism Women’s Network. My first piece, Hiding in Plain Sight: Diagnosis Barriers for Autistic Women and Girls, was posted today.
Thank you to everyone who shared their stories last month. It turned out that your answers to my questions were more than I could possibly use in one article. I learned so much from reading your stories. Even though I wasn’t able to quote everyone who participated, what you shared helped me to understand the issues better and I’m grateful for your insight. It’s also nice to be writing about someone other than myself for a change!
I’m in the process of developing two more articles based on the survey questions/responses so there’s a good chance that I’ll eventually include quotes from everyone who shared their thoughts.
I guess that’s it for today. Shortest post ever . . .