Autistic Parenting – Invalidation

Many autistic people will tell you that they have spent their whole lives being invalidated.

When reacting to a loud noise with their hands over their ears, they are told, “it isn’t that loud”.

When they tell someone a tag on a piece of clothing is itchy and they can’t wear it, they might be told “it isn’t that bad, you’ll get used to it”.

The truth is… it IS that loud…. and we WON’T get used to it.

What we will do however is realise we are not supposed to be bothered by such things. Particularly if that is something we have just been told off for. We will then likely pretend and suppress our natural reactions to make other people happy so as not to cause a scene.

I really try not to do this to my daughter.

Although, last night I did…

As we were lying in bed cuddling, she suddenly started crying. I asked her what was wrong and she told me a whole story about a purple witch tried to save a blue witch but it didn’t work. The blue witch died and Bowser just stood there and laughed. I was not exactly sure what she was talking about but then it came to me. It was something she had seen on Super Mario.

Not being a gaming fan I have not seen this happen before but said “You don’t have to worry about that. It’s only a game.”

She got more upset and started telling me at an even faster pace what happened and why it was so upsetting. I said “Well, I don’t think you need to think about that now. I’m sure the witches will be OK. Try to forget about it and go to sleep.”

She was shaking her head and I could tell her tears were increasing. I tried to make her feel better and she said “I don’t want to talk to you about it anymore”.

I felt terrible. I thought for a little while before I replied. As I was thinking I realised I had completely invalidated her. Just because I didn’t understand it and it wasn’t important to me I had belittled what had upset her.

I replied, “I am sorry I just did that. I didn’t listen to you properly did I?”.

“No”.

“Just because mummy wasn’t worried about it doesn’t mean you aren’t. I didn’t mean to dismiss how you were feeling. We don’t always feel the same way about everything and that is OK. Mummy just needed to listen more didn’t she?”

“Yes”.

“I will try my best not to let that happen again. I know it feels horrible when people don’t listen properly when you are upset about something.”

She then nodded her head, pulled me closer and said ” I love you mummy.”

As parents we don’t always get it right but these little moments can teach us so much. Properly listening and validating our children is so important.

Autistic Parenting – Honesty

This morning we were getting ready for school.

Out of nowhere my daughter asks, “Mummy, will I die?”

Instead of my normal ‘think like a neurotypical and say something appropriate’ response kicking in… this response that I have employed for so many years failed. So I answered her, “Not now but one day you will”.

Back came her incredulous reply… “WHAT I’M GOING TO DIE?????” followed by floods of tears.

I was really hoping my above response would kick in as I tried to pacify her… It did not.

To improve things I replied, “It isn’t just you. We will all die one day”.

She replied back, choking back her tears, “NOOOOOO I am going to die, and you are going to die? All of my family and friends will die? I don’t want anyone to die, I love everyone so much”.

I knew I had made a mistake. I tried to make it better, “It will be a really, really long time before that happens. You don’t have to worry about that now.” I gave her a big hug, stroked her hair, apologised for upsetting her and she stopped crying.

Without their appropriate/inappropriate filter kicking in, autistic people are bound to be more honest. It is often frowned upon, and many autistic people are referred to as blunt or rude. However, I appreciate the honesty of autistic people. It is real and genuine.

It is probably not helpful when talking to a 6 year old about death though!

My Story

People have often written me off as too quiet, shy, awkward or strange.  I have heard these things for so long I had totally taken them as truth. I have very seldom fit in but never really understood why. I just assumed there was something wrong with me. I had some very hard times wishing I could completely change myself and be ‘less me’.

Throughout the last year, I made a conscious decision to connect with the adult Autistic community. I thought it would help me be a better parent to my daughter. I did not realise this would be one of the most important things I would ever do. It has transformed everything. I fully delved into the world of Autism and learnt as much as I could from them. 

However, I began to identify with their stories way more than I ever anticipated. I felt like there were so many similarities between us. This coupled with my own realisations about how similar me and my daughter are started me thinking. I took a few online tests to see if I could be Autistic. My results were really high. I was diagnosed by a clinical psychologist a few months ago as Autistic. 

This has led me to the best understanding of myself I have ever had and the best understanding of my daughter I could get. My whole life just makes so much more sense. I realised how much I have been exhausting myself trying to fit into a world that is not set up for Autistic people. I realised how hard it has been to try and pretend I was ‘normal’ in an attempt to try and have friends.

I have lived without knowing this for 35 years. I have tried so hard throughout my life to suppress myself but now I have to stop trying so hard. I have to be true to myself. It is daunting but liberating. I can approach life in a different way. I can recognise my struggles for what they are without thinking I am faulty. I can appreciate my strengths. I deserve to be accepted for who I truly am. I wish I knew earlier but the rest of my life will be shaped by this knowledge in a big way.

I am proudly Autistic.

Hello and welcome to my page!

However you found me I am grateful that you are here! I just thought I would introduce myself so you know a little about me and why I am here.

I am Gilly. An autistic, ADHD, mum studying a PhD. I am proudly from Manchester in the UK and now live in Brisbane, Australia.

I love Gavin and Stacey, Disney, Stationery, Foo Fighters gigs, Football (soccer), Ice hockey and English chocolate/Greggs sausage rolls! If you like any of those things we will probably get on.

I am here as a way to get my many, many random thoughts out of my head, in hopefully a clear way that might be helpful to other people. I will talk a lot about autism and neurodiversity because obviously I am autistic and I have an autistic child. I am also doing a PhD which is you guessed it about autism, so it is a huge part of my life and a much misunderstood and debated topic.

I will also talk about study and my PhD journey as I am currently in the thick of this and it might help my stress relief and process my thoughts. There will probably be some random stuff along the way too as things pique my attention.

Hopefully it will be useful and slightly entertaining for you to be here. So that’s a little bit about me now I better start writing something else.

Gilly 🙂