I have an Autistic daughter.
I also still haven’t worked out whether to share that out loud (guess I just did), how to say it in a way that doesn’t sound negative (it’s not) and whether the framework for a ‘diagnosis’ is even necessary (it helps with understanding).
Whatever it means to you, to me and my amazing 4 year old daughter being Autistic rather than having Autism simply means my daughter sees, senses and interprets the world around her differently to the majority. Often referred to as neurotypical, I think the rest of us are missing out on some pretty cool talents and insights bestowed upon my daughter and people with her unique neurological wiring.
One of my daughter’s characteristics is her need to control, organize and structure things. Not all that different to many of us but it can become quite restrictive for her when she’s forced to ‘fit in’ to a world built for the average and the majority. I love watching my kid line up her toys in perfect symmetry or patterns and it fascinates me how she interprets those patterns.
What fascinates me even more these days are the responses and reactions from so called neurotypicals to her quirky behaviours.
Recently, I posted a picture of one of her setups with her farm and zoo animals and some of her stuffed toys. Miss 4 is obsessed with animals and would rather watch a David Attenborough documentary than an episode of The Wiggles. (She has an incredible memory and at 3 years of age was already identifying birds by name from their pictures and their calls). What began as me sharing my daughter’s cute little display of structure, led me to realise just how oppositional many of us view the world.
The above photo received a large number of likes from many of my friends and connections on social media but in almost every case, the comments made were each person’s interpretation of the image. Overwhelmingly the observations were that of a fight, conflict, opposites, showdown and so on. Nobody made a comment about the fact they’re all animals and in fact, all the same. Nobody suggested they’d all arrived at some imaginary party and were saying hello to each other. Nobody even suggested that they’d found something on the floor and were all taking a look together to decide what to do with it.
Every single comment was about some sort of oppositional interpretation.
Applied to relationships we see this show up as either person being right or wrong when debating or discussing viewpoints. We’ve either broken a rule or adhered to it. Achieved a goal or failed. There’s heaven and hell, black and white, good and bad, skinny and fat, tall or short, autistic or normal…
It seems we’re not very good at seeing degrees of things, progressions or graduations.
I believe this binary view of the world keeps us from experiencing the fullness life has to offer. Our decisions and actions are based on opposing poles of appropriateness, political or social correctness and ideas of success or failure.
What if we saw the full spectrum when approaching our lives? Perhaps this would help us to understand those around us. Improve our relationships. Diffuse conflict. Ease suffering.
Maybe it would just help us to make different choices because we could see more possibilities. In any case, we’re missing out on a whole lot of life when we jump in with our blinkered view of situations and set up camp at the extreme end of the poles.