Tag Archives: Adults

“You Are Not Like My Child” #AtoZChallenge

Welcome to day 25 in the A to Z Challenge on autism. Wow, we’re almost done! Today, I discuss a statement often made by parents of “low-functioning” autistic children towards adults with autism: “You are not like my child.”

This statement is often used to discredit adults with autism who want to advocate against a cure or who want to advise parents against certain treatmets for autism. In a way, oof course, the parents are right, in that no-one is exactly like their child (not even that child’s hypotehtical identical twin).. Of course, parents have the right to make decisions about their child’s health, so it isn’t like an adult with autism has the right to make that decision (unless the adult happens to be the parent of an autistic child too).

However, this usually isn’t about adults trying to make decisions for other people’s autistic children. I for one recognize parents’ decision-making rights and I have never directly intervened in a parent’s decisions that I did not agree with. However, the parents in this situation often use these words to discredit autistic adults trying to advocate for themselves and their right to remain the best autistic people they can be.

I, in fact, have had people tell me that, unless I agreed that I was nothing like their autistic child, I should get a fad treatment to get cured of my autism. This disrespects adults’ rights to make medical decisions for themselves.

Another aspect in which parents and adults with autism have opposite interests, and in which this statement is often used, is representation of autistic adults in organizations like Autism Speaks and the Autim Society of America. It is a fact that thse and other such organizations have few or no autistic adults on the board of directors. Autism Speaks used to have John Elder Robison as a poster puppet, but that’s about it. In few other disability communities do parents say that adults with said disability cannot represent themselves, but in the autism community, it is a common idea. When Ari Ne’eman was eelect into the National Organization on Disability, parents everywhere protested. Now I for one do not agree with everything Ne’eman says and I do feel he’s a bit too inexperienced to serve on a government advisory board. However, I do not see why, just because he isn’t a parent, he can’t be on the board.

Let’s face it: we are not like your child. We are adults. However, autistic adults at one point were autistic children, and many had the same problems today’s autistic children are facing. Parents could learn from how we coped.

I do not say that there are no autistic children with an intellectual disability or who are non-verbal, but there are autistic adults with these challenges too. Also, if an autistic adult appears to function well now, it doesn’t mean they functioned as well as a child – or even that they function as well in real life now.

I consider myself a moderate mama on many debatable autism issues, but one thing I can’t stand is being silenced for being disabled. This is exactly what the “You are not like my child” crowd do.

“You’re an Adult.”

Last Tuesday, I went to the dentist. I have trouble taking care of myself, including brushing my teeth. I can’t remember to do it regularly, and when I do remember, I find it hard to motivate myself because I’m sensitive to the feel of the toothbrush and the taste of the toothpaste. The dentist gave me a mouthwash with a relatively neutral taste and told me to rinse with that after toothbrushing. I am allowed to brush my teeth without toothpaste for now to get used to the feel of the brush and into the habit of brushing first. The dentist instructed the nurse who was with me, a nurse from another ward, to tell the staff they needed to actively remind me to brush my teeth. The nurses on my ward, however, didn’t feel like this, saying I’m an adult so should take responsibility for my own self-care.

The phrase “you’re an adult” is uttered time and time again when I (or other patients, but I’m speaking for myself now) require help or display a problem that is not normal for a healthy adult. Saying we’re not healthy is not an excuse, because what are we in treatmetn for then? A nurse told me yesterday that if I had a low IQ or had been floridly psychotic, this would’ve been an excuse not to be able to remember my self-care. As if people with an intellectual disability or psychotic disorder are not adults.

The thing is, whether you’re physically or mentally capable of taking care of yourself, does not determine whether you’re an adult, and whether you’re an adult, does not determine your respectability. The idea that an adult should be capable of caring for themself, is ableist. The idea that an adult (at least, one who displays adult abilities) is more respectable than a child, is not just ableist but ageist too.

Honestly, I don’t care whether I’m an adult. I don’t care whether my abilities reflect my age. I care that I’m an individual and have individual needs. In some areas, I’m self-reliant. In other areas, I require practical care. In others, I require guidance. None of this makes me deserve less human dignity. Similarly, children and persons of any age with intellectual disabilities deserve as much human dignity and respect as a healthy adult does. We treat them differently, of course, but that is because they have different abilities, difficulties and needs. A child is different from an adult, and an adult with a disability is different from a non-disabled adult, but that doesn’t make them a child. Everyone is an individual who deserves to be treated like an individual with dignity and human rights.