How To Treat Your Autistic Child Respectfully And Create A Better Family Life
William Stillman’s words, ‘always presume intellect,’ in his book, Autism and the God Connection, resonated with me immediately.
It’s a golden mantra I try to follow in my life with Mohit and the students at SAI Connections. Being on the spectrum himself, (as he has Asperger’s Syndrome) William explained it lucidly.
He further clarified: Presuming intellect is about belief in competence. It is as simple as interacting and being with others in the same ways you would welcome from anybody else.
So dear friend, when you’re with your child, do you presume competence?
How do you treat him?
1. Do you talk about your child in front of him,as if he doesn’t exist?
2. Do you say praiseworthy things about him without checking with him?
3. How much importance do you give IQ tests? How much do you believe their results?
4. Do you talk to him like you do with other members in your family?
5. Are you respectful of his space?
6. Do you turn his face to look at you, somebody or something?
7. Do you give him toys and puzzles meant for much younger kids?
8. Do you give him the same activities to do, over and over again?
9. Do you engage in ‘mass trials’? For example, find ‘A’. And you do it 10 times to test if he gets it.
10. Do you give him time to problem solve?
11. Do you give him time to process what you say to him?
12. Do you use derogatory words while introducing him to others? For example, ‘he’s a little slow.’
13. Do you impose limits on him? Like ‘he won’t be able to do this.’
14. Do you restrict him at home because you don’t think he’ll be able to behave himself outside.
15. Do you stand up for your child when somebody else is not treating him well?
As I created this list, I realized I’ve been guilty of many of these myself.
But Mohit and my students are great teachers.
They’ve been patient in teaching me. Over the years I’ve let go of many of the above.
Wait a minute! I realized I’m still guilty.
I presented at the Veruschka Foundation conference a couple days ago.
Mohit’s picture was part of my presentation. I said a few things about him without taking his permission.
I also presented about another adult student- without checking with him.
I need to straighten this out.
I spoke only good stuff. I should have given them due respect and checked with them before presenting.
The unease dissipated a bit when I read the next section of the book- ‘Autism and the God Connection.’
Here are some suggestions to connect with your child.
1. Self reflection
Reflect on your words and actions.
Spend time with the questions above.
It’s about what’s in your heart.
Be honest with yourself.
2. Seek forgiveness
That’s right. Ask your child to forgive you.
And don’t qualify it with a ‘but’.
Just simple, pure forgiveness- without excuses.
I’ve experienced it with Mohit. People on the Spectrum are the purest, most large hearted people I know. They believe in ‘oneness’. They forgive and radiate unconditional love.
Both self reflection and seeking forgiveness require immense courage.
But the benefits are enormous.
3. Create a ripple effect
If you presume competence and show it in your actions- people around you will see the difference and they too will change.
Your family and friends will respect your child. So will teachers and therapists you interact with.
Dear Friend, respect your child for who s/he is.
This is not a process that needs to be done just once. It needs to be repeated. In doing so, you will break down walls of conditioning built over the past many years.
Grab your chance and break through all the barriers.
Your child awaits you on the other side of this wall.
In discovering your child, you’ll understand who you are.
You’re the parent, but your child will facilitate your growth.
Just like a spiritual master.
But remember it’s a matter of the heart and not the mind.
You have to have the eyes to see and the heart to believe.
Because you’re a parent, you’re blessed with it.
I know because I’m a pure analyst. I overthink.
If I could change the way I looked at my son and students, so can you.
As Shams of Tabriz says in the Forty Rules of Love:
This is the conflict between the scholar and the mystic, between the mind and the heart.
Who will you choose?
Remember your child awaits the ‘real’ you.
Approach him as you are, without inhibitions and devoid of conditioning.