Lately I have heard from some new parents (what I mean by that is really parents of kids more recently diagnosed) that they had felt like they wouldn’t be able to find other people on the web they could relate to because they didn’t agree with or want to hear doom and gloom and negativity.
I’ve also recently heard from some Autistic colleagues that they are sick and tired of being berated, silenced and otherwise treated with disrespect “by parents.” I could relate to the feeling, but it’s that “by parents” thing that got me thinking.
This is when I remembered that I hadn’t yet written about my visit to Hirsch Academy in Decatur, Georgia.
Most people’s parents are not like the small handful of loudly vocal people who show up repeatedly to write unkind things to and about Autistic adults, and sometimes even their own children (I won’t get into that, because it’s really too triggering).
Because I am a person who prepares special ed teachers and doc students for a living, I meet a lot of people, and a lot of them are parents of kids, and a lot of the kids these parents have are kids with autism. I get to know them over time, and see the wonderful work they do as pre-service teachers, and often keep in touch with what they are doing after they graduate. These are good and loving people, dedicated to life-long learning. This is my general background knowledge of other people’s parents. This is hundreds or maybe by now a thousand-odd of people, not just a loud handful.
Cut to my experience at Hirsch, which really drove this home so much it brought tears to my eyes. Shelley Carnes and Leslie Smith there who run the homey, inviting little school brought me, Landon Bryce and Brenda Rothman to come and speak for the inaugural session of their “Our Voices” series, which they put on in the city of Atlanta and opened to the public for all who are interested in Autistic and allied viewpoints.
Shelley and Leslie are parents, and a lot of the teachers were too. Many of the parents came to see us at the school before the event, and so did the teachers. They asked questions, which also helped us fine-tune what to talk about in the speaking portion. They clearly cared about the answers and believed we were human beings worthy of respect and even honor.
During the large talk, picture a giant room full of parents: a giant room or a small auditorium. Like a large church they numbered. So it wasn’t a stadium, but the audience was plentiful enough that I started out calming myself down using theatrical preparation breathing. And then this happened: This giant room full of over a hundred parents emanated so much open-mindedness, and—if this is not a word, it should be—open-heartedness that I felt perfectly comfortable telling them to feel free to ask me anything.
This is what parents are really like. Parents of Hirsch Academy, you can ask me anything you want, whenever you like. And I hope I can come see you real soon. And I hope you come to TASH, which is in Chicago, where I live. Much love.
So for everyone else who is having a hard time getting beyond the really super vocal handful? Hang in there, stick around; I have some wonderful people to introduce you to. Parents like yourselves, the kind I’ve observed (from the honest and sensitive questions and comments) who read this particular blog.
Because check it out. All those wonderful, loving, open people in Georgia? That was just in Georgia. And only in one part of Georgia. It’s a big, wide world, full of love and compassion and sparkles on the water and dapples in the trees.