Measured by their Deficits

Children with autism are routinely measured by their deficits.

I was reminded of this last week during a conversation with Kate Swenson, the founder of Finding Cooper’s Voice, an online community for Autism parents, and the author of Forever Boy, a memoir about the years following the diagnosis of her first born son, Cooper, with severe nonverbal autism. 

Kate was frustrated by some recent interactions with the staff of Cooper’s school.

“They only have bad things to say about him.”

As the mother of 3 neurotypical children, Kate knows it is not typical to walk into a parent teacher meeting to be besieged with all the bad things about your kid.  For her neurotypical kids, the teachers talk about strengths and challenged.

But, for Cooper, it is all about what he is doing wrong or not doing well.  Instead of being treated like a person, he is treated as the sum of his deficits.  

Cooper is not alone.

This is because children with Autism are routinely measured by their deficits.

The milestones they have not achieved

The IEP goals they have not mastered

All of the areas where they are not keeping pace with peers.

And it is simply not fair. 

That is because all of these standards and markers for success are based on a neurotypical children.

When neurotypical is the standard, our children with Autism will always fall behind, no matter how hard they work or how much they mask.

That is why it is important for us to define success for our children based on who they are and not who we think they should be.

This does not mean we do not set expectations or have goals for our children.

It means we drop the belief that “it should not be this hard” or “it should not take this long”.  

It means we reexamine what success means for our child, so that we are seeing the incremental steps forward.

It means a win is a win no matter how messy it looks or how long it takes.

When you do this, you not only release the pressure on your child, you release it on yourself.

That is because when you are looking at your child as the sum of their deficits, you are likely judging the hell out of yourself.

This is a miserable way to live.

That is why it is crucial for you to separate your thoughts about yourself as a mother from how long, whether or when your child reaches a particular milestone or achieves a particular goal.

Otherwise, your self-concept as a mother will be forever tied to how your child is doing on any given day.

But it does not have to be.  

Just like you get to decide what success looks like for your chid, you also get to decide RIGHT NOW that you are an amazing mother no matter what.

When you feel good about yourself and you are celebrating your success as a mother, you will have more capacity to recognize your child’s progress, celebrate their success, and enjoy your parenting experience.

P.S. Listen to my podcast episode on this topic here.

P.P.SIf you struggle to enjoy your parenting experience because you are constantly worried about whether you are doing enough or the right things, I want to help you.  

You can get started by booking a complimentary consultation call here for my 1:1 program. During the call, we will talk about what is standing in your way of enjoying your parenting experience and whether it makes sense for us to work together.