The Top 10 Reasons to Own ASD

17 Dec

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.

5. Self-advocacy.

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?


Posted by on December 17, 2010 in ASD in the Grand Scheme


Tags: , , ,

5 responses to “The Top 10 Reasons to Own ASD

  1. Tam

    December 17, 2010 at 4:34 AM

    I would not be able to respond to an email like that in a calm way. It *really* ticks me off that parents try to keep the diagnosis from their kids.

    I mean, for really really young children, I can see having to dumb things down and maybe not using a label. But let’s face it, if you’re dragging your kid around to doctor’s offices and therapists they know something is different.

    And once a kid knows something is different, the parents trying to keep it from him just tells him it’s something he should be ashamed of, or scared of, or frightened by. Absolutely no good comes from trying to ‘shelter’ kids from their own issues.

    • jholverstott

      December 17, 2010 at 9:57 AM

      I’m not sure I am calm when I read the email either, but I know that keeping my cool and working “around” this is, often times, in the best interest of the child. So, I compromise. I’m not always good at it, but I try.

  2. gbe

    December 17, 2010 at 1:50 PM

    I agree with every reason you listed for owning ASD. I’m not upset with the parents you described, though. My sense is that owning takes time – for education and acceptance. It seems a fairly natural initial reaction to want to protect a child from a label that some people use as an insult. I think it’s up to professionals to make the case that more good than bad will come from using the word “autism” or “Asperger’s.”

  3. Dave

    December 25, 2010 at 6:46 AM

    The greatest disability anyone can have is other people’s perceptions.

    My ASD son managed to catch a train in Italy, get to Venice and navigate around quite happily. We’ve never been to Italy before!

    I defy any NT to navigate around Venice without help on their 1st visit! The assumption about an Aspie would be that the shock of the new would completely throw them. Had I, as a parent, made that assumption then my Son would have been denied one of life’s great experiences.

    Your blog posts illustrate that is often the NTs that need the help and counseling more that their AS child


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