Education is a complex and unnerving predicament again for me right now. I am familiar with this approaching uneasiness, having been here once before. Even though it may seem we have come so far in the understanding of Autism, admittedly i still have very little faith in what is on offer in the realm of mainstream schooling. Autism moves to a rhythm of its own, and the immensity of perceptual change needed seems far too great, before children with Autism will really be able to flow as themselves, in a conformed learning environment beside those without. Autism is viewed and distinctively labeled as a ‘dis’ ability, diagnosed formally as a ‘dis’order, a not quite ‘normal’ version of what is considered neurologically to be of normal functioning. There is nothing within this notion that i could disagree with more. I have read enough to understand what the science says, i have collaborated for long enough with what the psychology is saying. I have been working my way through the often tiresome array of information and opinions on whats best for Autism right up until now. Now, i have decided to let it go. All of it. I have let go of the psychology behind the monotonous methods of behaviour therapy, which admittedly in the beginning i sincerely embraced, and only now do i understand was under the belief that Autism is a ‘problem’ that could be resolved and aided through repetitious behavioural training. Quite possibly it did help on a surface level, however the notion that Autism is a ‘problem’ needing to be fixed, never has truthfully sat well with me at all. In the beginning, there was a level of expectation as a parent to take action. A portrayal of an ‘issue’ needing to be attended to with a sense of urgency, whilst the brain functioning is still in its vital stages of development. You were considered fortunate to know early, with an increased prospect for your childs outcome, more opportunity for implementing ‘right’ behaviours, re-developing the brains patterns to more appropriate responses and actions. And, at a time when i believed i held limited information on what was best for my child, this was appealing and made considerable sense to me. It was easier to trust, to go along with and be told what it is you needed to do by the cultivated experts in the field of Autism, than trust your own innate wisdom. It was easier and less confronting to go along with the preconceived ideas and recommended ways to best ‘help’ my child, before truly allowing myself the time to go through the process of really understanding what Autism meant for us. I realise now it takes tremendous surety to step away from the opinions and conforming psychology that is embedded in the methods aimed at aiding those with Autism and it is only now, that i am able to do so in confidence.
So, after letting it all go and trusting that we are the wisdom in the knowing what is best for our child, he is truly flowing to his own rhythm. Now, only is he is really learning, he is teaching me what he needs to know more than any book or therapy session could ever do. Simply by being in the space with him and allowing him to be, allows there to be no expectation, on who he is, how his behaviours are defined and interpreted. There is no wrongness, or less than ‘normal’ view in his world now. In this space he is opening and has the room to grow at his own pace. He is leading the way in his education, he is deciding what he would like to know more about, what discoveries need to be made or challenges that must be conquered on any given day. He does not have to hide himself, withdraw, or become conscious of his quirks that bring him confused and often misguided attention. By deciding to no longer try to change his innate being, and the letting go of any practices that are supporting of assertions that the Autistic way is not of normal, or appropriate functioning has opened up a space for us. A place left untethered by any of societies preconceived ideas on how he or we need to be. Now when we pay attention, it is to him, and not everything about him. This way, requires you drop everything you think you know and begin to move in a way that feels right, better, it demands your true attention, a kind of listening requiring your whole self. He knows when the attention is else where or wonders or you become distracted mid conversation. Ironically he has this way of pulling You back in, refocusing You by gently moving your face back to his centre, watching your eyes intensely to ensure the listening stays, and that you are paying attention with your whole self. This contradicts most of what is said to be true about Autism. Looking back i realise that everything that we tried, the methods we used, was all in efforts to ease his suffering, what we believed would help settle him in the consistent unsettledness and better sustain him long-term out in the larger world. It is only now that i can see we were moving him in a way that will never serve his true self. We were teaching him to mask who he is for sake of survival, the sake of others, to move in a way that is foreign to him, to refrain from voicing truth of what he was perceiving in fear of judgement. Something that is harshly bestowed upon us in life, Autism or not.
What i have realised is, this unique way of being offers new understandings of the way in which we interact and communicate with ourselves and each other. Autism reaches into places of raw, unattached truth and moves to a rhythm that for most is just too confronting, raising the questions of your own beliefs and perceptions on what life is meant to look like. It demands you move with intention and integrity, have patients and compassion, and a willingness to stay present. For most, this simply is just too much to ask all of the time. We spend our lives listening to and being told what we need to do in order to be considered accepted and successful in our lives, often spending many years following that guidance presumably under the belief that it’s the right way, the only way towards a successful, happy life. Is it? i sincerely wonder, about that now. When my daughter was asked by an admired teacher what she wanted to do when she completed her senior schooling, she replied with, ‘create something’. Her answer was not surprisingly deemed unacceptable. Her intelligence and ability to know what is best for herself was highly disregarded. Was the honesty and integrity of her answer appreciated and respected? I’m afraid not. Needless to say she no longer holds this teacher in high regards and no amount of university degrees he has his name on would alter that perception. Indoctrination comes in many ways, from lifes many teachers almost from the very beginning of our lives. She has grown securely enough to think otherwise for herself thankfully, that the only perception that matters on her life and the direction it moves is that of her own, anything anyone else thinks is irrelevant. When i asked her the question, ‘knowing what we do now, would you have preferred a different way of learning, to be offered something other than undertaking mainstream schooling? She was adamant in her answer, ‘yes’.