I've made no secret that I've suspected that I'm on the spectrum. Well, since I went back to school full-time, I wanted accommodations, and to get that...I needed a diagnosis on paper. As it turned out, the third time was the charm. My primary care provider got me a referral, and three diagnostic schedules and a psych report later, it was official: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder superimposed on Autism. On paper, it's "mild" autism. I'm not fond of functioning labels (anymore). But, that being said, if Asperger's Syndrome was still a diagnosis, that is likely what would have happened...if I had been diagnosed the first two times appropriately, and not dismissed by "medical professionals." That was the diagnosis I attempted to pursue in 2007 and 2009. But, that's another blog for another time. Henceforth, I am going by The Mommy Autistic instead of High Functioning Mommy.
This semester, I'm taking two writing classes...to offset the fact I'm taking Elementary Statistics. Writing is one of my "narrow restrictive interests" so I'm hoping that will translate to good grades in those classes. That being said, I wrote this for Fiction Writing. It's based on actual events, it's good advice, I had to limit it to two double-spaced pages...though the internal mommy thoughts of the character are quite embellished. Enjoy! ~The Mommy Autistic
How to be...That Mom
Worry not reader, don’t let my use of “mom” put you off—fathers, you can just as easily be “that dad,” or even “that parent” if you prefer ungendered terms. “That parent,” known to school administrators, teachers, and doctors. Sure, all parents have a bit of overzealousness when it comes to their children—it’s human nature. But parents of special needs children are inducted into a different type of parenthood. In order to make the world safe and accepting of their child, their involvement with their children is often escalated a few notches…and then some. This is not the same as helicopter parenting, though we know we certainly appear so at a glance.
You may not realize how easy you have it until your normal is not normal, or when normal comes your way, it’s bizarre to you. What is normal, anyway? A setting on a dryer. Normal parents send their kids off to school, usually without a second thought. Special needs parents have diverse varieties of normal, and it fluctuates depending on their child’s unique needs. We usually manage to retain a sense of humor about it, mostly as a survival mechanism to offset stress levels that can rival those of combat soldiers. Humor, and copious amounts of caffeine.
A normal kid comes home and says how they did this or that, maybe complain a little. They bound off the bus and walk, jog, or skip into their home. No supervision necessary. Just another brick in the wall. A special needs parent must meet their child at the bus, lest their son run off. The smell hits just as you take your child’s hand. Red flag number one. At least your kid’s wearing a long tank top and dark shorts today. The aide that sits with him on the bus reports he fell asleep before the bus left the school (bless her heart for not mentioning the stench!). You nod, thank them, and go inside. Two steps in, your first grader is ripping his clothes off and you are horrified to find that he is wearing normal underwear. Normal! There’s that word again. But the underwear doesn’t look normal…before your kid can run off and spread doodie destruction, haul their 55 pounds into a bathroom. You hope your denial will make the stinky go away as you envision Ludo from the movie Labyrinth moaning “Smell…bad…” upon arrival at the Bog of Eternal Stench. A few minutes later, after your potty-training (speech delayed!) child has had a baby wipe bath, he is now flapping his hands at Thomas the Tank Engine on Netflix wearing nothing but a clean (for the moment) training pant, you go through his communications binder, and realize you are not crazy, you did leave written instructions multiple times for him not to be sent home in underwear. And here we are…four times in two weeks. The last three he was wet, but not today. No, today was worse. And it’s not just about the potty training. You child also has a medical condition that effects his digestive system…and now I’m thinking of the flatulent rocks from the same scene in Labyrinth….
So you write a note—full of righteous Mommy anger—and rightly so. Your speech-delayed child can’t tell you they’re screwing up, can’t advocate for themselves. A normal kid can. But who watches out for those who can’t defend themselves? Is it any wonder that special needs parents tend become irrationally angry when something negatively impacts their children, even if it isn’t intentional?
“That mom” starts out giving people the benefit of the doubt, until trust is repeatedly broken. For one child, it might be a diaper mix-up. Another child might have a life threatening condition where one mistake could mean life or death. You might think of us as “that parent” but we tend to envision ourselves as our kid’s superheroes.
As it turned out, my professor said she liked it, and that it was different. I think she might have even said good job. I did include one clarification replacement word (as suggested by my professor), and now hopefully you enjoyed it too.