I always though parenting three kids would be interesting, but I never thought it would be so “May you live in interesting times” interesting. But anyone who’s ever taken on this parenting gig knows that being a mom to three kids with entirely different social skills profiles -- one intensely thoughtful teen girl, one exuberantly autistic tween boy, and one explosively extroverted seven-year-old girl -- means boredom is … not an issue. This gig is fun! And maddening. And so, so rewarding.
It also provides constant opportunities to learn, to look back on what we’ve done and experienced; to think about what went right -- and what went not-so-right. To share those experiences with other parents who might need advice, or to learn from other people -- not just parents -- who might have advice to offer themselves.
That’s why I’ve been writing online about parenting and autism since 2003 here at www.squidalicious.com, as BlogHer’s contributing editor for parenting children with special needs since 2009, and as co-founder and senior editor of Thinking Person’s Guide to Autism since 2010. Sometimes to vent, mostly to share information, Borg-style -- though the collective and hive mind that is the Internet.
Over those years and through many posts -- and I just passed 2,500 entries on this site, if you can believe it -- my writing has been autism-focused, or autism-sibling focused, but not always. I’m too much of a distractible geek, and my life and kids are too interested and complicated, to keep everything tuned to a single channel.
|This. Is. Neurodiversity.|
Underlying everything I talk about, however – the root of all social understanding, and what I try to keep in mind and also teach my kids to understand -- is the idea that Behavior is Communication. This seems like a simple concept, and it is fairly logical – but it takes effort, because we are taught to pay attention to what people say, rather than consider what their behavior may be saying.
But understanding how behavior influences communication makes fruitful social interactions so much easier. I can’t really expect my son Leo, who like so many autistics often struggles to produce spoken language, to have a successful spoken social exchange if his lunch is overdue -- he’ll be both hungry and off-routine. This means the energy I want him to use for social interactions is instead getting transformed into anxiety over his empty belly and the broken social contract regarding the time at which that belly gets filled. I can’t expect Leo to simply do what I say at that point, and tell me what he wants, if his behavior is indicating distress so significant it undermines his ability to speak. It's unreasonable for me to insist Leo tell me what he needs in such scenarios, and I need to both understand that, and know how to help an agitated autistic boy return to a calmer place. Maybe, then, we can resume exploring supporting his social skills.
I realize my writing on this site has been spotty of late. I'm going to try to be better about that. In the meantime, I want to get to know more about you, or your kids if you have them. And I want you to understand what I’ve learned from thirteen years of parenting mine.