An Open Letter to the Newly Minted Parent of the Autistic Child


Dear Parent of the Autistic Child, 

I know you are somewhat scared for your son. What will he be able to do in his life? Will he need constant care? Will he be able to take care of himself? Is there hope for him? Autism is a big pill to swallow. But there is hope, and there is hope for your child. 

I need to tell you a few things about myself. I am an autistic adult. Which means, I was one of those autistic kids. It’s not that hard a jump to make. I have held down a job for six years. I currently take care of my mother full time, and maintain a small home. I talk like a non-autistic. I even do the cooking at home, too. It’s a little hard for me to make friends, but I would not judge your son by my yardstick.  

I’m not exactly sure if you have a proper yardstick to measure your son’s abilities by. Nobody really knows the potential a person has, even an autistic one.  

I have a few things for you to consider. 

  1. I believe in vaccines. I believe vaccines did not cause your child’s autism. I don’t know where you stand on this issue. Many people do believe this, though, even many celebrities. This fear has caused many outbreaks of once-eradicated diseases. Be careful who you trust. 
  2. Autistic Adults are not morons. Actually, most autistic adults have a perspective that many parents of autistic children do not consider: the perspective of the autistic person themselves. Who better to help a person with a trait or condition that someone with the same trait or condition who has been down the road a bit? There is a reason certain conditions run in families! 
  3. Be Wary of Applied Behavior Analysis claims. Applied Behavior Analysis – ABA – was formulated to make the autistic child “indistinguishable from their peers,” or to make them seem non-autistic again. The truth is, your child is not a potential non-autistic. They were always autistic. They were born that way. I was born that way. Be careful how ABA is taught to your child. He might be taught how to behave in public, but make the boy non-autistic again? Not going to happen.  
  4. Listen to your child. Every bit of behavior is communication. They may experience the world in a completely different way from you, due to sensory processing issues. Almost all autistics have them. If he starts to stim, then consider the surroundings. Is he uncomfortable?  
  5. Do not be afraid of stimming. Stimming is a comfort behavior. As long as he is not hurting himself or anyone else, self-comfort is a good thing. If his stim is harmful, I would suggest getting a small toy or game to stim with. Any autistic adult can have a suggestion that helps.
  6. Delays in growth are not denials. I was older than five when I finally asked my first question. I was delayed in almost everything social and acceptable throughout my childhood and early adulthood. But keep going. Most of us autistic people are verbal by adulthood. Many of us work jobs.  
  7. When he gets a Special Interest, let him study it. It might be something like buses or trains, or airplanes…it might even drive you and yours crazy. But hang in there. He might be going toward his ultimate career choice in the end, and he’ll possibly outdo others in the field. Is his special interest the airplane? He might be a pilot or mechanic. Is it music? A great musician. You never know.
  8. Be Wary of Autism Speaks and Other Cure Crusaders. The  notion of cure in autistic circles is akin to eradication of autistic people themselves. They see autistic people as a big scourge that must be destroyed. 

This is by no means an exhaustive list. If you have any questions, feel free to contact me. My email is: cambriaj1977@hotmail.com.  

With Warmest Regards,

Cambria Jenkins

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On Stimming: My Stimming Story

 

My stimming story is a little different from other people’s stimming stories. My initial stim was a monotone hum. Unfortunately, that was an unacceptable one. My mother asked what it was for. I said it was to get rid of excess energy. Eventually, my mother would tell me to go run up and down the hall. (We had a long hallway in our house.) I found better ways to stim as a person throughout my life, even when I was not allowed to stim by my sisters. (I was also not allowed to enjoy my own money or mental safety.) Of course, once I got away from my sisters, I was “allowed” to stim again. Strangely enough, I did not stim too much.

There are many times and ways I stim, but one thing they have in common: they are to get rid of excess emotional energy. That means, stimming can come at any time, for any reason. It’s a comfort that many neurotypicals do not understand or apparently need, so they always want us to not do it. They don’t want any indication that we are autistic. I say, screw them.