While autism affects 1 in 54 children in the U.S. according to the Centers for Disease Control, overcoming stigmas and gaining societal acceptance remains an ongoing challenge for many of those on the spectrum. In an article this month for Yahoo Life, writer Rebecca Brand described her efforts to instill pride and self-esteem in Sophie, her 11-year-old daughter with autism, while resisting societal pressure to “cure” autism and perceive the condition as a disease.
As Brand describes it, teaching her daughter about her autism diagnosis, while ensuring her comfortability with her own identity, has been a delicate balancing act.
“Since she was diagnosed at age 5, I have worried that the message we have been sending our daughter is, “you are perfect, but…” Brand wrote. “So, as much as possible we have ignored the diagnosis in our daily life. We were lucky that Sophie moved comfortably enough in the world with just a few intermittent sensory aversions like loud, dark theaters — or maybe it was just that keeping to herself or her stim of running and humming did not draw much attention from other kids.” Brand also took care to remind Sophie of the positive elements autism contributed to her personality, such as her honesty and love of nature.
When asked by her daughter whether she will ever be able to “beat autism,” meaning whether she would ever be able to achieve full independence, Brand explained that the latter was a goal they worked toward every day.
“That focus on the concrete goal ahead must have settled her mind more than the promise of a cure,” Brand concluded, “because instead of looking bashful as she did when she hung up the phone after her phony call, she looked right at me and issued her usual goodnight: “You are dismissed.”