Tag Archives: Acceptance

Acceptance and Autism #AtoZChallenge

Today, for my first post for the A to Z challenge, I want to focus on a fundamental aspect of parenting an autistic (or non-autistic) child and of being a person: acceptance.

Many pro-cure autism parents don’t like the word “acceptance” when used in the same sentence as “autism”. They think that to accept their child’s autism means to like it, or to see it as something that can’t possibly be negative.

In truth, accepting means simply acknowledging what is. I remember I was discussing acceptance with a former therapist and saying I wasn’t ready toa ccept something. At that point she said that I might not be ready to accept the current weather but it’s still stormy whether I accept it or not. It is in the same mindset that I would like to encourage parents and autistic people to accept themselves or their autistic child.

Most parents, even those who would like to take away their child’s autism, accept their child for who they are. In other words, they acknowledge that their child is autistic now. Some obviously don’t, as some parents are in denial and others view autism as something completely separate from their child, but most do. Acceptance does not mean not wanting to change anything. In fact, in dialectical behavior therapy, a common treatment approach for people with borderline prsonality disorder, you are taught that to change something, you have to accept it first.

Let’s face it: your child is autistic. That’s the reality you have to acknowledge as a parent if you even want to begin to change anything about your child. You wouldn’t start treatment for autism, whether it’s behavioral or biomedical or medication treatment, if you didn’t accept your child is autistic.

I can illustrate this with my own life. My family till this day does not accept that I’m autistic. I wasn’t diagnosed till early adulthood for this reason. Then, when I accepted that I’m autistic, I started seeking treatment. I take medication and get counseling. This helped me greatly improve behaviorally. I would likely still have meltdowns everyday if I hadn’t accepted the fact that I’m autistic.

In short, to accept yourself as an autistic person or to accept your autistic child means to acknowledge the reality of autism. As parents, you probably love your child regardless of their autism, too, but that is different from accepting them. Accepting yourself or your autistic child does not mean liking your or their behavior. It does not mean there is nothign you wish to change about yourself or your child. After all, everyone has things they want to change about themselves and one aspect of parenthood is to help your child change.

We Are All Acceptable in God’s Eyes

Our society is extremely achievement-oriented. We are taught that we are acceptable because of what we have to offer the world. I am no exception. Though the people around me now accept that I have come out as I have, in the sense that they no longer deny it, I used to be taught that I somehow had to prove myself. Having no job, no college degree, no children and being dependent on benefits and long-term care, I often feel like I have failed as a human being.

Today, I read the book Real Families, Real Stories: Celebrating Life with Down Syndrome by Stephanie Sumulong. It is filled with short stories by parents and the occasional sibling of children and adults with Down Syndrome. What struck a chord with me is that each of these family members says their child is amazing. They don’t say so because their children’s achievements are magnificient in society’s eyes, but because as human beings these people are valued for who they are. I cringed soometimes at the umpteenth exclamation of how these people are gifts from God and have so much to offer. Then again, I realize that this is because I doubt my own worth.

Then I read a devotional which sends a conflicting message. It tells us how none of us are truly good enough in God’s eyes from the start, due to Adam and Eve’s original sin. Then it goes on to tell us that, if we accept Jesus as our savior, we are in fact all good enough. The devotion doesn’t go into what we need to achieve to be good enough in Jesus’ eyes. It doesn’t list any rites of passage to the Godly family. I realize that the author of the devotional may believe that certain morals are required to be saved, or that only certain people are predestined to be saved. I won’t go into this. For now, the author just states that, if you accept Jesus in your life, you are good enough in God’s eyes.

It is weird, but I find it comforting to know that all people are judged equal before the Lord. We all have a wickedness to us, whether we make big money or have three Ph.D.’s and five children or not. God recognizes this, but He also recognizes the good in everyone and He sent his son to make peace with us. As I said, people often believe that certain morals make us good enough in God’s eyes. I am not too conservative and therefore I don’t believe that we need to be something or achieve something to be accepted by God. Others might disagree. The point is, we all have some wickedness to us but it doesn’t matter to Jesus.

Equipping Godly Women

Beyond Autism Acceptance

We often hear about autism acceptance, and I am all for it. Autism acceptance means accepting the autistic person in your life, whether it be yourself, your child, spouse or whoever, including their autistic differences. Autism acceptance does not mean not wanting to change anything about yourself or the autistic perosn in your life. After all, we all want to change and move towards teaching our full potential, and I remember from I believe it’s Eriksonian psychology that only a small percentage of people truly reach their full potential at the end of their lives.

Unfortunately, many parents of “low-functioning” autistic children say that they cannot accept their child’s autism because it’s rendering them incapable. I understand their point of view, but I do not see why there is nothing about their child’s autism that they can accept. As Suzanne over at Rarer in Girls says, she sometimes actually delights in her daughter’s autistic behaviors even though Janey is labeled “low-functioning”. At the same time, Suzanne wants Janey to learn functional communication and to become toilet trained. I totally see why.

I myself do my best to change certain aspects of my autism. For example, I watn to become less irritable and less easily overloaded. This is not because I don’t accept myself, or because I feel autism is bad. It is because I feel I could have a better quality of life if I learned strategies to regulate my sensory sensitivity and emotions.

I honestly believe that no person, autistic or not, has nothing they want to change about themselves, and for parents of all children, I don’t believe there’s nothing they want to change about their child. For this reason, I dislike the dichotomous perspective on which autistics need to be “fixed”. As Suzanne says, her child is “low-functioning”, but there are still aspects of her autism that she cherishes. In this respect, let’s move from which autistics need to be fixed on to which symptoms of autism need to be treated so that people can have a good quality of life.

There are other reasons I dislike the autism dichotomy. I am not allowed to complain about any of my difficulties, because I am more capalbe than some autistic children ever will be. These same parents are advocating for fulltime support for their children once they become adults, but I, being more capalbe in only a few areas, should deal without support. It’s that simple in the Netherlands. If you don’t require institutional support (which I do require, but people not working with me don’t get this), you fall under the local government in terms of funding for support, and care is no longer a right (which it is if you need institutional care).

Nothing in autism is dichotomous. It isn’t like, if a person crosses a certain, arbitrary line between “low-functioning” and “high-functioning”, they suddenly become completely acceptable and not in need of any treatment or become completely unacceptable and in need of a cure. There are people who can speak and write coherently who feel they’d want all their autistic symptoms to be cured. There are also (parents of) people who don’t have functional communication who don’t wish (their child) to be cured. That doesn’t mean these parents don’t want their child to learn. All parents want their child to learn and grow. As I said in my first paragraph, even neurotypicals often want to change. Change is inherent in a person’s process of aging, but that doesn’t mean that a person at any stage of their life isn’t acceptable.

The As of My Life

My Interet access got cut off last week due to data overuse. I have a mobile USB modem, similar to a cellphone Internet connection, and until recently had virtually unlimited data use. That was changed to 1GB/month without my knowledge (I’d forgotten to issue an address change). I used this up, plus E100,- in extra data use, within three days and was cut off. Today is the start of a new month, so I have an Internet connection agian, though I have to be very careful not to overuse this time. I obviously switched ISPs, but the new modem won’t be delivered till sometime in the coming week. This is the reason I’ve hardly been online – I published Wednesday’s post while at my husband’s -, and I’ve not been able to catch up with other bloggers much.

You’d think I’d have a ton to write about with a week of Internet-free time. Well, since I get most of my inspiration online, I don’t. Today, I am therefore writing up the ABCs of my life, or at least the As. I got this idea from a post I came across while browsing PoCoLo, a general interest linky. I go with the letter A only because I can’t be motivated to think of something for every letter, and I don’t intend to post a follow-up.

Acceptance: this is a tough one. I strive for and advocate for acceptance of myself, autistics, disabled people in general a lot, but do I accept myself? I honestly don’t think so.

Adjustment: related to acceptance. Adjustment is a constant process, because life constantly changes. You can adjust without accepting the new life situation.

Advocacy: what I do a lot on my blog, but fail to do in daily life. My husband has pushed me to stick up for myself in regards to the difficulties I’m facing in the institution, but I don’t. I fear that I’ll lose my support if I do.

Alters: I still feel them, though not as much as I used to. Maybe they were fake all along. Maybe they’ve gone in hiding, being told they’re fake so much over the past year. I don’t know.

America: not really relevant anymore, but I dreamt of living there when I was a teen. Still sometimes wish I could live in the U.S., but I know I never will.

Autism: that one is obvious, though people around me still like to question it. In this sense I can totally relate to Joanna, who inspired me to write this post.

Autonomy: what I ultimatley strive for. Autonomy means being able to direct your own life. This is not the same as not needing support or care. You can be perfectly autonomous while needing lots of help. What it means is making your own life choices and taking responsibility for them. I really wish the care system, with its mouthful of deinstitutionalization and self-reliance, would help clients on the road to true autonomy.

The Five Stages of Grief in the Recovery Process from Binge Eating

When browsing blogs on mental health on Mumsnet, I came across a blog on recoveyr form alcoholism. While there, I found a post on the five stages of grief in substance abuse. You are probably familiar with Elisabeth Küber-Ross’ five stages of grief in bereavement. These same stages apply to some extent to those recovering from an addiction:


  • Denial: people feel that they do not have a problem concerning alcohol or substances. Even if they do feel as if they might have a small problem, they believe that they have complete control over the situation and can stop drinking or doing drugs whenever they want.

  • Anger at the fact that the addict has an addiction or at the fact that they can no longer use alcohol or drugs.

  • Bargaining: the stage where people are trying to convince themselves or others that they will stop substance abuse in order to get out of trouble or to gain something.

  • Depression: sadness and hopelessness, which usually happen during the withdrawal process from alcohol or drugs.

  • Acceptance, not merely as in admitting you have a problem with alcohol or drugs. Acceptance involves actively resolving the addictioon.

I do not have an alcohol or drug problem, but I do exhibit disordered eating. I wonder to what extent these stages of grief apply to the recovery process from eating disorders, in my case mostly binge eating. Denial is certainly common in individuals with all types of disordered eating. I for one was in the stage of denial up until quite recently. This is not merely not being aware of the problem, like I was in early adolescence. Rather, from my teens on, I did realize to some extent that my eating habits weren’t normal. I remember one day buying five candy bars at once and eating them all in one go. When my classmates pointed out that this was outrageous, I shifted from lack of awareness of my eating disorder into denial.

As I said, I stayed in denial for years. I continued buying sausage rolls for lunch every single day until the end of high school, then at blindness rehab ate candy and chips everyday. I gained rougly ten pounds in those four months at blindness rehab, thereby reaching the upper limit of a healthy BMI.

It took several more years before I moved into the stage of anger. By 2008, I was convinced I would die young, and my unhealthy eating habits were one reason for this. I hated myself and my body, yet didn’t stop eating unhealthy amounts of candy. If anything changed at all, I binged more.

I don’t know how I maintained a relatively healthy weight until 2012, but I did. I did start purging in 2011, which can be seen as either a response to anger or a form of bargaining. After all, bargaining can also be seen as trying to reduce the (effects of the) addiction while not completely trying to abandon it.

I reached overweight status in 2012, then obese a few months ago. I started going to a dietician in 2012, then quit going again, went back in the fall of 2013, quit again, and recently started going again. I am still at the stage of bargaining regarding my disordered eating. When told I just need to stop buying candy, I object. Instead, I want to lessen my candy consumption, keep it under control. Yet isn’t the whole point of an addiction not the substance, but the lack of control? I know that one difference between food and alcohol or drugs is that you can’t completely abandon food, and my dietician said that getting fruit or veggies within easy reach as a substitute for candy, is unlikely to work. After all, I’m going to keep the idea that food is an easy way out of emotional stress.

What Does Unconditional Love Mean?

On the World of Psychology blog, Eve Hogan wrote an interesitng article about unconditional love. This article got me thinking about the attitude we have towards people who harmed us, and the attitude people we harmed have to us. It is often thought that family members and spouses unconditionally love each other, but what if a parent becomes abusive towards their child, a child towards their parents, or one spouse towards the other?

Hogan says that spouses and family members love each other unconditionally with their hearts, but do not necessarily and should not accept everything their child, parent or spouse does to them. I can relate to this in my personal life, having grown up in a family that loved me with their hearts but did not accept everything I did. I still struggle with this, having a hard time distinguishing conditional love from accepting the person but not the behavior.

Hogan says that spouses really should view their vows as saying that they will love each other with their hearts no matter what, but will only stay together so long as the other doesn’t become irresponsible with money or time, doesn’t lie and doesn’t cheat. This leaves a lot of room for unlikeable behavior which doesn’t warrant a divorce. Similarly the integrity agreement Hogan discusses with teens only mentions not harming their family (or anyone, for that matter). This is where I struggle. I do know that setting limits on unlikeable but relatively harmless behavior such as laziness regarding schoolwork, is okay. This is quite different from not accepting the child or teen into the family home.

There is a grey area, especially with teens and young adults, where parents can decide their child’s life is no longer their responsibility. In this sense, there is a difference between unconditional love and unconditional caretaking. I know that married spousess and parents of children or teens under eighteen (or 21, in some situations) have a duty of care, but, once spouses divorce or children reach age eighteen, unconditional love becomes quite another thing than catering to each other’s needs no matter what.

Learning to Become Less Co-Dependent

There’s an interesiting post up on the World of Psychology blog about ways to become more independent and less co-dependent. According to Isha Judd, author of Love Has Wings and Why Walk When You Can Fly, most people are somewhat co-dependent, be it on our partners, friends or social groups. Indeed, most people have some maladaptive beliefs about ourselves and others. This is in line with my husband’s observations when paging through Reinventing Your Life by Jeffrey Young, when he said not only borderline personality sufferers but most people could benefit from this book.

In the above blog post, Margarita Tartakovsky first defines autonomy as being the author of your own life. It means owning your own reality, with your perceptions, thoughts, feelings, etc.

Autonomy derives from self-love. And let’s be truly honest: it is terribly hard to love yourself (without appearing like a narcissist). Fortunately, you can learn to lovve yourself. Healthy self-love means realizing you’re just as important as anyone else, and that your feelings and thoughts are valid. If you love yourself, you put as much effort into caring for yourself as you would for others, consider your needs, and accept yourself for who you are. Meeting your needs, making your own decisions and being assertive are also three of the ways suggested by Tartakovsky to enhance your autonomy.

God, Suffering, and Post-Traumatic Growth

Some people believe that God grants Christians a carefree life, and that if God doesn’t grant us this, we must be weak of faith and/or God must be angry. We hold God responsible for all our suffering. This is kind of weird, since we do not do so for our happiness – we may thank God, but we still reecognize the part we ourselves and other people have had in it.

Also, it is common for some Christians to assume that God only allows suffering for the weak of faith. In other words, it must be our own fault of we suffer. This again is discounting the role humanity and circumstances have in people’s suffering. Then, of course, we may be angry with God and lose our faith. After all, if He eexists, why does He allow humans and nature to cause people suffeirng?

I want to talk here about growing from suffering. There is such a thing in psychology as post-traumatic growth, and I believe it is important that we recognize this in order to accept our suffering. Beyond being angry because we suffer – which of course is a stage of grief too -, can we try to use our tribulations as an opportunity to learn? For example, many people who have suffered a lot, learn to appreciate the little things in life. I am not saying that we need to be thankful that we endured whatever we endured, but we can use it as a springboard to growth. Let’s move beyond blaming ourselves or God and onto accepting whatever life throws at us and appreciating it as much as possible. Non-Christians can perhaps more easily acknowledge that God is not to blame for our suffering – simply because they may not believe in God -, but then again believers may find themselves spiritually growing from our experiences. I became a believer when I was in pretty dire circumstances, and I am not the only one.

Moving Beyond Blame in Abuse

A few days ago, Soaring Survivor wrote an interesting post on forgiving yourself in the process of healing from domestic violence. Forgiving yourself, she says, is harder than forgiving the abuser.

I always find myself thinking that my situation is almost unique, in that I myself was aggressive and my family responded with aggression to my behavior. Then I found out, I don’t remember where, that in most situations of intimate partner violence, there is not simply one person who is the perpetrator and the other who is the victim. Rather, there tend to be some form of abuse on both sides. I am not saying that this is the case for Soaring Survivor, as I don’t know her situation. What I mean to say is that my situation, involving sort of provoked aggression, is not as unique as I used to think.

This makes forgiving myself extra hard. I have forgiven my family, I think, but too often this comes down to trivializing what happened. I know that my parents weren’t sadists, and I often say this to justify their actions. They did what they thought was their best.

Then a few weeks ago I read a response in a women’s magazine from a person with borderline personality disorder to two parents who had complained about their children’s BPD being attributed to abuse. The borderline patient said that even very ordinary parents make mistakes, and this can set off BPD in vulnerable people. Does this mean they’re pitiful victims? No.

What I realize as I write this, is that maybe the hardest part of forgiving both yourself and the people who hurt you in your life, is shifting the focus away from the question of blame. Ordinary partners and parents (and children) act out violently, and accepting this is hard but necessary for both survivors/victims and the general public. Abuse happens, and the idea that only sadists perpetrate it, gets a whole lot of survivors/victims unnecessarily stuck in self-blame. Forgiveness may involve accepting what happened without letting it hold you back from living a fulfilling life. I’m still struggling with this.

Do Labels Matter?

Just a few minutes ago, I found a great post on Our Stroke of Luck about having a child newly diagnosed with autism and still realizign he’s him. I struggled with my comment in a way, because I didn’t want to say that autism doesn’t matter. It’s still a part of who an autistic person is. But it’s not all. As Owen’s mother writes in the post, he’s still adoerable.

I am sometimes told I overemphasize how different I am from other people. I am trying to lessen this habit, because, even though disabilities are a large part of me, they’re not all there is. I am also ssmart, have a cynical sense of humor, and am pretty strong-willed. I am a crafter, a blogger, a wife, an activist and a student. I know I’ve written about this before, but I keep struggling with this identity confusion thing.

One of the commenters on the post said that labels don’t matter, love does. I disagree with the first part of this sentence. Labels are what define us, they’re just not always negative labels or disabilities. All the qualities I listed above, are labels. Of course these labels make up a whole person, but it can be hard to see yourself or others as the whole person without using the labels that make up you or someone else.

I know what the commenter meant. A disability diagnosis doesn’t make the disability real (and no diagnosis doesn’t make it unreal). Especially if you were born with your disability or acquired it early in life, there’s no way of knowing what you would’ve been like without it. A diagnosis may be a relief, knowing that your or your child’s struggles are not due to laziness or all in your imagination. It may be depressing in the sense that this same reality – the diagnosis and accompanying prognosis – may shatter your dreams. It is an art to find the right balance between accepting and challenging your or your disabled child’s prognosis. Labels should matter, but not so much that they become a self-fulfilling prophecy.