We all have many aspects to our character that make up part of our identity. We have identity defining characteristics associated with gender and gender roles, our interests, employment, family situations, the culture we grew up in, our financial status, and our perceived value in society.
Most of these characteristics are assigned a value of sorts, based around the idea that some of them are positive and some are negative. For many people these values are seen as very important, as categorising people and their place in the world helps us make sense of what is around us and the people we interact with. We see these characteristics and their values as a way of defining who we are to both to ourselves and to others.
For those whose identity is wrapped around characteristics that are generally considered “negative”, though, this is a problem.
Let’s talk about what defines me. I am a woman, wife, mother, student, teacher, holder of 2 university degrees, advocate, company founder and director, gardener, chicken breeder, amateur iPhone photographer, writer, messy housekeeper, daughter, sister, aunty….. and more. All these things play a role in making me who I am. They all define me in some way.
I am also Autistic. Being Autistic defines me. Not completely, but it does define who I am. It defines me just as much as any of the other characteristics I listed above does, and that is okay. (to read more about this visit “Autism does define me” on my personal website, link will open in a new window)
Parents, I’d like you to know- despite what you may hear in mainstream conversations about autism- that being Autistic is not a “bad” thing. Your child being Autistic is part of who they are, as much as them being a sibling, child, friend, artist, creator, explorer, computer-lover, or any other of their defining characteristics or interests.
Autism does define your child. And that is alright.
As a parent, we all have the choice to mould how our children see themselves. Please give them access to all the information about their identity.
As a newly identified Autistic adult, who spent my childhood with part of my defining characteristics unrecognised, I’m asking you to please tell them they are Autistic.
Let them know it is not bad, or something to be ashamed of. Let them know they can be proud of all of their defining characteristics.
For me, as a newly identified autistic adult, allowing myself to be defined by autism has been an empowering and liberating experience. As a newly identified autistic adult, who went through 41 years without autism defining me, having autism as part of my identity has been an undeniably good thing. I hope you will give your child that gift as early in their life as possible.