Dear Parents: Your Child With Autism Is Perfect

I know, because I’m autistic.

As a child and adolescent, all I wanted was to be like someone else. I did everything I could to curb my natural impulses. I made sure that my meltdowns took place when I was alone in my bedroom so as not to burden others with the weight of my wordless emotions. I took what people said at face value, rather than trusting my instincts. I overanalyzed every social interaction.

I watched the movie “Clueless”” and the TV show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” over and over. I practiced physical gestures, like smiling and making eye contact in my bedroom mirror, and I would perform them at school, parties, at the dinner table, at college, on dates and in different workplaces.

I spent more than a decade in therapy wading through misdirected diagnostics (“you’re depressed,” “you’re anxious,” “you’re manic,” “you’re suffering from an eating disorder,” “you need help with an adjustment disorder,” “you seem to be experiencing suicidal ideation”) because my behavior stemmed from a belief that there was something wrong with me and that I needed to compensate for this wrongness by becoming someone I wasn’t. It never occurred to me that I might be designed differently from others and that fighting against this was a losing battle.

Your child is perfect. Be skeptical of what doctors, teachers, family members or friends say to the contrary. Even the most well meaning of people can be misinformed and misguided when it comes to understanding children and adults on the spectrum.

It doesn’t help that definitions of autism are clinical and dehumanizing. When the medical and scientific establishments have a hold on the narrative of certain type of people, they disempower them and everyone around them. I mean, no one wants their child to be seen as disordered. No one wants them to be underestimated by others and for their identity to be synonymous with being a jerk.

So I’d like to add some sparkle to the damaged narrative. There really is no need to cure children with autism, or to apologize on their behalf, or to change them. All you need to do is listen to them with your heart. Then, you need to accept their autistic ways. Because every time they share their needs, and every time you do your best to honor those needs, you’re honoring the deeper needs of society.