Every once in a while, I receive an email from the parent of a new client a few days before I see them for the first time. “Dear Ms. Holverstott, My son, X, and I will meet you next week. We don’t talk about X’s diagnosis in front of him. How do you handle this situation? We ask you not to talk about the diagnosis in front of X. We look forward to meeting you, X’s Mom and X.”
Great, now what?
Everything about my office speaks of ASD. A bumper sticker says: “I love someone with autism.” Hundreds of books about ASD fill my bookshelves. Puzzle pieces decorate my wall. Certificates of completion for autism-related conferences hang framed. My business card displays my title as an autism spectrum specialist. I always wonder if I need to de-ASD my office to respect such an email’s wishes.
During the initial consultation I often ask new clients, “Did mom/dad tell you why you are here?” A vague “no” or “I don’t know” is often the response, which leads to: 1) parents quickly explaining the goal that inevitably relates, directly or indirectly, to challenges presented by ASD, and 2) my explanation of who I am, who I work with, and what I do. ASD is not every other word, but during this first session, odds are, it comes up.
You might guess that subterfuge is not a comfortable game plan for me. I see no shame in autism. No embarrassment. No regrets. No cure. As Kathleen Seidel has said, “Autism is as much a part of humanity as is the capacity to dream.” I embrace ASD with open arms, and I am blessed that most of my clients and their parents do, too. As one mom of a seven-year-old recently said, “We own it.”
As I see it, here are the simple (and not-so-simple) benefits of owning ASD and all its glory:
1. No whispering about the “a-word” required.
2. Siblings can learn, understand, respect, and advocate.
3. Parents can find respite, knowledge, and love in other parents.
4. Kids understand why some skills are hard and others are easy.
6. A positive self-concept.
7. Knowing the reason for visits to doctors, therapists, and other specialists.
8. More effective, informed services with buy-in (hopefully) from the Aspie or autie.
9. The ability to look to role models and other inspirational personalities.
10. The chance to knowingly become a role model and story of success.
How do you “own” ASD?