Comparisons don’t help

This is my third blog about parenting autism and now, I am getting into the swing of things. There is this one aspect that I wish I didn’t come across as much as I do when it comes to autism. Actually I think this is true for all parents but when we are talking of a community that should be supporting itself because of the lack of support it receives from outside, it is doubly important to weed out certain ways of thinking. I am talking of unfair comparisons.

Comparisons are by nature unfair because rarely do we compare exactly similar things. Most usually it’s the old adage of comparing apples to oranges that comes to mind. Autism is a spectrum disorder. If you have seen one child with autism, you have seen exactly one child with autism. Another child’s autism is bound to manifest differently. Some children have very severe sensory impairment. Some may not. Some may have terrible seizures — about 40%, I am told. But the remaining will not. Some have brains that love language. Many will not. Given all of this, how do we justify comparing one child with autism to another?

Make my child like that younger one who talks so much. Make my child pass the exam that the other boy passed. Make my child work only with the best teacher because he deserves it more. These kind of beliefs and statements hurt all children. Widen your mind a little, open up your heart — a parent should see the child in someone else’s son or daughter too. We can’t keep trying to be like someone we are not. We can’t make our children into what they are not. And we certainly cannot say that our child deserves more than your child because that is simply unfair. The other aspect of comparison is the one that happens between parents. Don’t be judgmental about a parent because his or her child is not doing well. None of us know the particular pain they are going through. Perhaps everyone is trying in their own way. If Autism is to have the smallest chance to survive in an already not-supportive society, then the community of parents should work together, for each other and each other’s children so that tomorrow all our children are safely cared for and have somewhere to belong to together.

The Autism community in India is a divisive one. Everyone wants to say ‘mild’ autism is my child’s diagnosis — he isn’t as bad as those kids. Is that even humane? How can we autism parents get our children to be independent and live among friends if we isolate them in cocoons of our making, trying to set them apart from children we think are not as ‘smart’? First we have to weed out competitive mentalities from our minds. And then we have to roll up our sleeves and get to work. That is what will help our children — not pitting one against the other but rather seeing the potential in every single one.

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