A reader asked:
Hi. I was wondering if you could make a post regarding parents and specifically, strategies for coping with them. [Parents who don’t acknowledge autism/insert other as legitimate.]
Short answer: it depends. Families are really complicated, and it depends on what the relationships actually are. There isn’t much I can say that is generally true for all children and families.
That said, here are a couple of principles that work for some people:
Some people are never going to accept that you’re autistic, and are never going to understand what that means. For some people, that word is just too loaded, and too unacceptable.
Some of these same people will do what you need, if it’s framed the right way. Sometimes it helps to *not* talk about autism and *not* give any principled explanations, but rather to say things that are more like “I don’t understand. Send me an email and I’ll reply”. or “That restaurant is too loud for me.”
That can work better than things that are more like “I have trouble with loud noises because I am autistic and we often have trouble processing intense sensory input”. Because actually, they don’t *need* to understand or agree with your explanation of what’s going on in order to do right by you. They just have to do what you need in order to interact.
And I’d say also that – first and foremost, learn to say no and make it stick. Asserting boundaries makes a lot of things better, and the more you can establish that you are in control of your life, the better off you’ll be. In some circumstances, your ability to do this can be very limited because of danger – but in just about *all* situations, people will try to convince you that you have less power than you really do. Being mindful of your autonomy and preserving it helps.
Also – one thing that can happen is that people feel like they need permission of families/parents/whoever to think of themselves as autistic/whatever and to seek out help. And, while you might need their assistance for certain things, and while they might have the power to prevent you from doing certain things – you *don’t* need their permission to try to understand the world, understand how your mind and body work, get help, and make your life better. Don’t make their acceptance a prerequisite for doing these things.