I have recently come across comments by people on the Autism Spectrum Disorder who find the labels “autism mom” and “autism dad” offensive. This rather surprised me.
The idea is that autism belongs to the person who has ASD and not the parents. It is wrong for parents to take on this identity, as if the autism is all about them. There were also some comments about martyr-complexes of these parents.
I am an autism dad and my wife is an autism mom. I’m sorry that some people find it offensive but that is the way it is.
The truth is that there is a unique experience of being a parent of a child (or children) with autism. It is not the same as being a parent of a typical child, nor is it the same as a person on the autism spectrum (unless they also have a child with autism).
There is an experience of trying to communicate, of trying to learn the rules when the rules keep changing. There is an experience of navigating the healthcare system and the government supports.
This is not about “curing” children of autism. We experienced real safety issues that needed to be responded to. We needed to be loud and persistent.
I know that autism moms and dads are a thing because there is a connection when we meet each other. Even though every child’s experience of autism is different, there is a common experience for parents. We experience solidarity in our identity as parents of children with autism.
This is not meant to dismiss the experience of the person with autism. Nor is it meant to present being such a parent as a terrible thing. Being an autism mom or dad, like any relationship, is a mix of rewarding and challenging.
Some people will still find these labels offensive. I understand. But I will continue to call myself an autism dad, for that is what I am.