I am an autistic adult. Many, many autistic adults have been traumatized by the world, simply for being autistic. There are so many things that people do that hurt, unknowingly.
Removing and controlling autistic people’s passions is one of them.
It seems harsh, maybe. But when you take away the Dora, the Pitbull, the Ben 10, the repeated final scene of End Game?
It hurts. It traumatizes.
First, we allow allistic (non-autistic) children their interests. We encourage their passions. We take them to dance camp and pay for travel soccer teams. We should do the same for our autistic children. It doesn’t matter if you don’t understand it. It doesn’t matter if it’s Legos, or yarn, or the way the light filters through the blinds. It’s their love. But, also, autistic passions are more than just “likes”. For me, it is integral to my very being, like breath and thought, intertwined with all the joy and brightness that exists within me.
One of the worst insults I’ve received, one of the ones that has stung and last the longest, was when colleagues told me: “Gosh, you really love this job” about teaching in a way that implied “too much”. Because it’s what I want to talk about, always. All day. It shut me down, closed out connection, and cut at the very heard of who I am.
Growing up, free access to everything I loved is one of the ways that I knew I was loved.
To share an autistic passion, to see it, to experience it… It is an autistic love language.
My mom bought me every Titanic book and helped me find cool Titanic exhibits to see. She stored bins and bins and bins of newspapers from the time when I was laser focused on politics and the media. I was allowed to spend whole days in my books, days and days.
My grandparents decorated their guest room in Little Mermaid when that was all I would watch. They recorded my absolute hands down favorite episode of Babar so that I could watch and re-watch and re-watch, long past the age that other kids were watching. They created Saturday morning routines and stuck to them, because I needed them.
Some of my daughter’s largest smiles are when we sing, “Click! Take a pic!” on repeat for twenty minutes (especially if we can do it in the pool). My son loves to show off his collection of sticks that he’s found.
Think about this when you tell a child that they spend too much time talking about Disney, or when you ask them to comply with neurotypical standards before you deign to “provide access.” Or when our children hear that they must hide this part of themselves, that it’s “too much” for their classmates or friends. That they must change. They must be LESS.
What are you telling that child about themselves?
What are you telling them about the things they love?
What are they learning?
And is that the story you want them to learn? Are those the feelings that you want them to have?
My guess, my hope: No.
So, please. Just don’t.