What’s the toughest part of your job? Dealing with difficult clients? Working with an annoying colleague? The daily commute? Everyone has something that makes them want to scream…or run.
Parenting is no different. It’s tough but incredibly rewarding. It takes everything out of you but adds so much to you. Raising another human being takes skill, wisdom, and a dash of “moxie.” Yet for some parents, the things that many parents might typically say are the tough things are actually quite manageable compared to what these other parents deal with regularly.
These are the parents who welcome strangers into their homes to teach skills and challenge their young children for hours every day. Who juggle weekly appointments and therapies often along with another full-time job. Who clean out their 401K’s and bank accounts to pay for all kinds of interventions. Who have to make advance preparations for something as routine as a trip to the supermarket. It’s herculean parenting for sure, but believe it or not, these aren’t the things that make this job tough.
What makes this job tough for parents of children or teenagers with Asperger’s Syndrome is the level of awareness needed – and subsequent “work” required – when something happens involving someone *else* with Asperger’s. It’s called “antennae up” while trying to explain to people (those who want to know and will listen) what this diagnosis means while earnestly trying to protect their children from people who know little but believe they know it all.
I just learned about an incident involving an adolescent with Asperger’s who was involved in the death of her parent. Not the first time a tragedy has been associated – whether directly or otherwise – with this diagnosis. Sad situation for sure, but for the other children with the same diagnosis who attend the same school as this teenager … whose parents know each other … and where others know or suspect which other children have this diagnosis, it’s life in alert mode. People are talking. They’re making assumptions. And drawing conclusions. And more often than not, it’s all wrong.
We group people together all the time. All seniors wear cap and gowns. Computer programmers are smart. People from California love the beach. We make assumptions based on preconceived factors moreso than on proven ones. Or we do it just because it’s what we “think” vs. what we know. Yet here are the problems with it all…
- Categorizing people is risky at best and discriminatory at worst.
- It assumes things that cannot nor should not be assumed.
- And without proven data, it lumps everyone in any category together, eliminating the fact that every person, with or without a diagnosis, is an individual.
Sure there may be similarities in certain situations – e.g. children with ADHD may have trouble focusing. But not *every* child or teen has the same issues because they hold a similar diagnosis. And a diagnosis alone does not mean that certain situations will develop or happen *because* of the diagnosis.
Parents of children with Asperger’s Syndrome know that their children face a daily world ripe with social situations and expectations that may be beyond their understanding or reach. They also know that their children are bright, sensitive, creative, and move on to achieve in the worlds of academia, business, and beyond. Descriptions may help to bring understanding, but I don’t know a single parent who would want to “define” their child by their looks, size, GPA, or diagnosis. Parenting is tough enough. Why make it tougher.