Who Speaks for the Children?
That's a very emotional argument, but as far as I know, there aren't any autistic bloggers claiming that parents should never speak for their children. I don't think there ever were. It's just a big old scary straw man.
Of course parents are the best advocates for their young child, autistic or otherwise. They are the most intimately familiar with the child's day-to-day experiences and needs. I'd like to see the parents in the autism community become much more willing to trust their knowledge and instincts and feel much more empowered to speak up in defense of their child's dignity and personhood, instead of being intimidated into silence by self-proclaimed experts. As most of us know, there are some seriously ignorant professionals making unfounded gloom-and-doom predictions about autistic kids. Who should be speaking for these kids? Not the prejudiced so-called experts who have no clue about autistic children's abilities and potential, and not the pity-mongering nonprofit organizations that have been using images of devastation and epidemic as a fundraising tactic—but informed, caring parents.
One of the ways that parents can become more informed is to read blogs and other websites by autistic adults. Not because we know more about a particular child than his or her parents—we don't—but because our experiences can provide more background and insight to help parents gain a broader perspective.
It's all too easy to make limiting assumptions without being aware of it. Let's imagine a society where almost all parents were firmly convinced that at least one of their children would never be able to hold a job or to live independently. Does that sound like an unlikely hypothetical future? Well, actually, it isn't. I'm describing the not-so-ancient history of almost every society on Earth. The children who were thought to be destined for a lifetime of total dependency were females.
Those who spoke out against such attitudes (feminists) were ridiculed and dismissed as mentally incapable of understanding their situation—sometimes by their own parents.
Most of the parents who held those beliefs meant well and had their daughters' best interests at heart; it just never occurred to them to question their cultural assumptions.
Labels: families with autistic children