by right


{image is a photo of me holding a newly born Brooke, just before leaving the hospital to bring her home.}

Precious little in your life
Is yours by right
And won without a fight

Eleanor McEvoy, Precious Little

A note to my fellow parents,

We have a responsibility. Well, lots of them. actually. But one in particular that I’d like to address. We have a responsibility to teach our children how to be good, kind, compassionate people. The kind of people who help and don’t hurt others. The kind of people who not only respect but would fight for others’ rights to safety, dignity, and self-determination.

Conversely, our children have a right to be taught those things.

Editor’s note: All children, not just a select few. 

The editor’s note above may seem superfluous, but far too often, there seems to be some tacit understanding among parents that paragraphs like that first one are really addressed only to those with typically developing kids. Especially when they’re written by parents of a-typically developing kids. Kids who need help. Kids who tend to be the ones whose rights are in need of defenders. They come out like a plea: “Please, please teach your (typical) kids to respect (not so typical) kids like mine.”

Our neurodiverse kids have just as much RIGHT as their typical peers to be taught how to be good, kind, compassionate people. They have the RIGHT to be taught how to help and not hurt others. They have the RIGHT to learn what it means to respect and defend the safety, dignity, and self-determination of others.

And we have a responsibility to figure out how to teach them.

Teaching the rest of the family to walk on eggshells around an explosive kid (either explicitly or by example) is not doing that kid any favors. (Finding out why s/he’s explosive and seeking to accommodate his / her needs is. The difference is not semantic; it’s vital.)

Allowing our children to physically, verbally, or emotionally abuse us, his siblings, or others is denying him the right to learn that that’s not okay. Not to mention what it’s doing to our other children.

Ensuring a total lack of consequences when our children hurt other human beings is not supporting them, it’s letting them down.

We fight for our kids’ access to a Free and Appropriate Public Education. We do so because we justifiedly believe that they deserve to learn, even when they (appear to be) harder to teach. Because we know that every human being comes into this world endowed with the capacity to learn and the right to be taught. So we fight — we fight to modify curriculum, to create hospitable learning environments, to have teachers who believe in our children’s ability to make progress and who meet them where they are in order to ensure that they do.

Our kids have the right to an appropriate education at home too. An education that prepares them to be part of a family, part of a community, part of the society in which they live.

Letting our kids take the lead doesn’t mean surrendering our responsibility to guide them. It means watching them, learning from them, letting our loving study of them steer us toward the most respectful and effective ways to teach, encourage and prepare them for the future.

Celebrating our kids’ diverse neurology doesn’t mean foregoing the passage of our value systems on to them. It means getting creative — working with them rather than against them — in order to do it.

Our children have the right to be taught how to be good, kind, compassionate people. The kind of people who help and don’t hurt others. The kind of people who not only respect but would fight for others’ rights to safety, dignity, and self-determination.

They all deserve nothing less.

11 thoughts on “by right

  1. Amen.

    A social worker explained to a sibling once that she had to understand the emotional abuse because “he has Asperger’s”. If “Asperger’s”, was replaced by “alcoholism”, I doubt she would have said the same thing.

  2. sarah, of course it’s not always rosy. and, as you said, i acknowledge that relatively often. but i’m speaking about my children in a very public (and permanent) forum here. i think it would be wildly inappropriate and deeply irresponsible to talk about either of their toughest stuff in gritty detail or to publicly air my own (fleeting) frustrations with them in a way that would memorialize those moments forever.

    i far prefer to search for the learning opportunities that come from the hardest times and to share those, to dig deep and find beauty even in the darkest hours and to focus my lens on that, to celebrate the good, the joy, the accomplishment that walks hand in hand with the challenge of this life. that’s my survival strategy — never to deny the challenge, but to focus on the joy.

    it’s hard sometimes. but i find that it’s less hard when *i’m* less hard. that when i soften and bend, when i roll with my girl and i join her in the things that make her happy, it’s easier, and far more enjoyable, for all of us.

    so to answer your question, i don’t always find the ‘tea party’ in real time. but i come here after the storm to remind myself to look for it.

  3. Hi Sarah, I’m sorry things are overwhelming. Keep reading Jess, as her perspective may help you find pathways to relief. Also PLEASE check out the blog roll on the side, especially the links by autistic bloggers. Their experiences can give insight into what your son might be experiencing and help with the WHYS of what’s behind his actions. Often, the “because of autism” is a reason that’s given for behaviors, when there’s something going on UNDER the behavior itself (the behavior is communicating something) that’s sensory, communication, anxiety, etc. based – but it’s a major challenge to figure out because we non-autistic people aren’t experiencing things the same way.

    Please check out those links, and I invite you to – lots of links by autistic bloggers, etc. There’s a great facebook page – parenting autistic children with love and acceptance – it’s an autistic safe space, and they often answer questions from parents who need help. I hope you and your son can find some relief through connecting with Jess and the Diary community, and the autistic bloggers who share what they can to help kiddos like your son and the parents who love them. Hugs!

  4. Jess, I was wondering..and this might sound like a silly question, but you reference Brooke “scripting” quite a bit, and I was wondering just what that means exactly?

  5. Thank you for this Jess! There is no excuse for bad, rude, mean, abusive or dangerous behavior no matter what your diagnosis is! Quentin has been taught by example his whole life how to be polite, thankful and loving. He says please and thank you, he shakes hands when introduced, he does not say bad words and doesn’t allow us to say them either, he reminds us all the time :). He isn’t mean or abusive and he is very loving. And in turn, he is respected by his peers and adults alike. We work very hard every day to instill these qualities in him. It’s been hard since we’ve been here in Seattle for the last 2 years dealing with so many different medical and emotional scenarios on a daily basis, but I am so proud of him every day for the effort and growth he shows and what a pleasant kid he is to be around. This has been a truly difficult time for him and he is handling it like the warrior he is.

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