Saturday, 1 August 2015

My mum's awesome. Let's talk about that

My Mum's pretty awesome.

I wasn't an easy child, partially for ASD-related reasons and partially just because I was a little shit.  But she never made me feel I was a bad kid, or broken or defective or less than perfect, or that she'd consider trading me in on a better model.

Mum has some Aspie traits herself, and her brother/my uncle was very much on the spectrum for all he never got the diagnosis that might have helped him make sense of his life.  I also see shadows of myself in stories of other ancestors; long-dead Aspergias or yore who hid in their rooms when company came or preferred to communicate by pen and paper rather than speech.  So maybe that's part of why Mum accepted my limitations and weirdness so readily - it's just how some of our family are.

 Mum understands the concept of sensory-hostile clothing, and that made my young life much easier.  She let me choose my own clothes and dress myself as soon as my wobbly motor skills were up to the task, even if that meant a catastrophic confection of clashing colours, football shorts and thongs (the kind you wear on your feet, thank you) that meant I tended not to look particularly pretty or put-together.  Fortunately the whole pink/princess thing hadn't really taken off yet, so a little girl could get away with blue terry-towelling shorts and a Vegemite t-shirt.

Because Mum understood how hard social interaction was, she didn't push it. Of course she wanted her kid to do extracurricular things and have friends, but if it wasn't working and if I was unhappy and didn't want to go, I didn't have to, no questions asked and no pressure.
For all disability awareness and rights still has a way to go, it's come a long, long way. Aspergers has a name now, the autism spectrum is understood to be A Thing That Exists, and we're not the product of poor parenting or too much red cordial or TV.  There's some support and understanding, both for us and our parents.

Society's a bit more civilised, too - bullying and abuse of students by teachers is no longer acceptable in schools as it was in Mum's day, for instance.  And I like to think if I were a child today someone would actually notice I had a developmental delay.

 However, there's still a long way left to go. Services for adults on the spectrum are mighty light on the ground, especially in rural and regional areas. Cognitive disabilities are lagging badly in the fight for respect and acceptance - just look how common "retard" and "special" are as insults. You can try to argue that people who use that term aren't talking about actual people with cognitive issues, but the point remains that it only works an insult because having neurological, developmental or cognitive disability is considered a substandard, inferior way to be.

It isn't. And I know it isn't.

And that self belief is the greatest gift my mother's given me.