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?”.
“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?”
“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.