Source: You should’ve asked
It is volunteer appreciation week. Volunteering has been a huge part of my life since childhood. Currently I can attribute much of my current self and growth to my volunteer work with my local babywearing group.
When I first decided to volunteer with the Hampton Roads chapter of Babywearing International, I never imagined I’d be so thoroughly involved with the organization on the local and national level four years later. My work with the organization has given me new friends, introduced me to many new people, and forced me to grow as an individual in various ways.
A couple of the biggest areas of growth are my communication and leadership abilities and the sense of community it has brought me. I never imagined I’d be the Chapter President of anything, yet somehow it works and I’m actually quite good at my job. Meetings tend to push me out of my comfort zone by requiring I be personable and outgoing. I’m exhausted after the fact, but the switch in personality is second nature by this point and more genuine than forced.
The biggest benefit has been the community of volunteers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. The nature of the group means this base is ever changing. At the core of each volunteer is a person willing to give their time to grow this organization that has changed their lives as it has changed mine. A huge thanks to all the volunteers of past present and future that are making our babywearing group and inclusive and welcoming space.
April is right around the corner and it is Autism “Awareness” Month, which I prefer to call Autism Acceptance Month. A singular word choice doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it makes a huge difference. Society is quite aware that autism exists. Just because people know that Autism is a thing, does not mean they really get it or accept the presence of autists in society. Acceptance and awareness are two very different things. Acceptance is what we should be promoting this April, not merely awareness.
E is autistic. Her doctor asked me again during our last health check how I feel about it. After hearing this well meaning but ridiculous question for the hundredth time, I informed her that “it really isn’t a big deal as I am also autistic.” For some reason she was shocked by this tidbit and went on to tell me the importance of not divulging such medical information to just anyone. Clearly she doesn’t understand autism as well as I had hoped.
Autism is measured on a spectrum. Some traits will be at different ranges of said spectrum than others. Additionally females are greatly underdiagnosed as most diagnostic criteria is tailored to males. I present as rather neurotypical with some quirks. Society doesn’t see me as autistic. I am not a savant, I am not developmentally delayed, I excelled academically, and I am perfectly capable of making eye contact and socializing. I’m very good at making myself look like I fit in, a trait common to autistic females, yet at the same time I never really fit. After my diagnosis, it was a bit of a relief to finally have an explanation as to why meeting social expectations was so taxing. The understanding it brought me has allowed me to relax in social settings and embrace my less sociable habits. Not everyone I encounter accepts this.
Sure they are aware that autism exists and expect everyone to be like this one autistic they saw in the media or in a movie. They don’t really understand the breadth of the neurodivergence. Nor do they accept autism’s prominence in society. If you don’t fit each check box, then you don’t count as autistic and you should make yourself act like a normal person. We need acceptance of our existence and acceptance of our variances. Acceptance, not awareness.
If you’re my Facebook friend you’ve probably noticed my numerous posts asking questions about resumes and job applications. It’s been five years since I considered a career. Needless to say I’ve needed a refresher on the topic and my resume major updates. My friends and google have been of great assistance on this matter.
Upon graduation from college in January 2012, I had a job lined up at a large shipyard and was considering graduate school. But then I realized that now wasn’t the time to start a career. I wanted kids and I wanted them while I was younger and before I established a career. I did not want to start a profession to then take a break once children came along. Plenty of women have kids and continue working. Others welcome a time away from employment mid career. I am not one of those people.
I am wired to need to see things through. I hate starting something I cannot continue with till completion. Be it a sewing project, extracurricular activity, or life stage. Because of this I chose to start parenthood now. I had finished school and was at a fork in the road, parenthood or career. Most do these simultaneously and even starting to work now I will as well. But I’ve also got one child in school and another ready for preschool. These past 4 years at home raising the tiny humans have helped form them into who they are now. I wouldn’t trade it for anything. I figure school aged children can afford for me to not be at home 24/7 as they are not home that entire time themselves.
All these whirling thoughts have led me to to today. I’ve actually submitted a job application, updated my resume, and currently actively job search. It’s time for the next adventure.
My best friend decided to go full force into healthy eating and fitness. Now she’s super fit and feeling fantastic. Her motivational posts make it sound like a really great idea to follow suit. Plus well I hate when my clothes don’t fit right. At this very moment I’m super motivated.
But it’s also midnight. By time I wake up I’ll probably have lost all will to try. I tend to lose interest in things quickly and lack dedication. I’m pretty certain it’s one of my autist tendencies. However, I really want this to work out. There are so many positives and no negatives.
So I’m putting it out there. If I chat about it with the world, surely it will be more difficult for me to just back out come sunshine. That’s the idea behind this post anyway. Come morning, I will make an active effort to utilize my overpriced gym membership. (This is a must as my budget is screaming at me for my waste.) I will manage and stick to a clean meal plan, and I’ll quit with the eating out so frequently. (Again, budget.) Maybe if I think of healthy living in relation to money management it will work out better. I do love numbers.
Wish me luck!
A year ago today I sat in a parking lot after a meet up and started drafting a post for tumblr. It was about how babywearing helps me to survive. I never published this post, nor did I finish it. Half way through writing it I broke down in tears. It wasn’t Turing out as I expected it to. Instead I could only focus on how awfully difficult life felt parenting two kids all day long. A year ago today I realized I needed help.
That following week, I made an appointment with a therapist and started to actively work at becoming myself again. Until this point I was just going through the motions and barely hanging on. Postpartum was not as easy the second time around. Anxiety and depression snuck up on me through the year after A’s birth. I didn’t acknowledge it till she was 13 months old.
No one tells you to watch for post partum depression much after the first few month. You figure if it’s going to happen that it will be obvious and earlier. That’s not always true. It’s probably not even mostly true. A psychologist referred to my changed mood as adjustment disorder. That’s probably accurate.
If you feel down, or even just indifferent, talk to someone. As I’ve described it before, sometimes you just stop caring and have a harder time finding patience. Not everyone will feel strong negative emotions. If you feel off, speak up. You don’t have to deal with life alone.
Autism Speaks, the largest and most well known autism resource, has always been terribly problematic. Their mission statement speaks of hardship for caregivers and advocates for “curing” the world of the “global health crisis” that is autism. That is, until today.
This is their new shiny new mission statement:
“Autism Speaks is dedicated to promoting solutions, across the spectrum and throughout the lifespan, for the needs of individuals with autism and their families through advocacy and support; increasing understanding and acceptance of autism spectrum disorder; and advancing research into causes and better interventions for autism spectrum disorder and related conditions,” reads the update. “Autism Speaks enhances lives today and is accelerating a spectrum of solutions for tomorrow.”
This is a huge step forward, that is if they put their money where their mouth is. A mere 4% of the A$ budget is directed towards family services. Only 4% goes to actually helping the families and individuals they advertise as so helpless and dire.
How will the 35% of their research budget now be distributed? Will their fear mongering fundraising language change? Will they acknowledge the many voices of adult autistics and stop implying that neurodivergence only occurs in childhood? That once an autist reaches adulthood and can speak for themselves, they no longer matter in the discussion about autism?
Maybe A$ is finally listening to what the #actuallyautistic community has been saying for ages. They do have a new president, recently announced the passing of one of their founding members, and appointed two autistic board members for the first time last December. Maybe they will be better. Maybe not. Time will tell.
Until then, check out these sites for your autism resources instead.
Parenting Autistic Children with Love and Acceptance
And for more information on why Autism Speaks is problematic:
Why I am Against Autism Speaks (and you should be, too)
There are several other fantastic resources on this topic within that link.
Babywearing is a fantastic tool for parenting an autistic child. It allows us to meet the world where it is without fear for safety in crowds or over stimulation. Both are still a factor, but wearing E makes them easier to manage. This is all really great, and I’ve touched upon it before in the post titled Sensory Overload.
But how does babywearing affect me as an autistic adult? It’s actually helped me in a few ways as a parent and as an individual. As a parent, it makes going out seem possible. Outings are overwhelming and exhausting. I typically limit myself to one errand a day as more than that has me burnt out for days after. When I need to take the kids with me to do these errands, even thinking about the day’s tasks feels like more than can be done. Babywearing transforms these mountains into manageable tasks. It does this because it puts the children in a visible, contained space. They climb out of cart belts, let go of hands and disappear, and E even figured out how to lift the back panel of a cart to climb in and out. When I wear them, I can focus on the tasks without fretting about the children’s safety, thus lessening the anxiety that surrounds it.
Babywearing also helps to satisfy E’s need to touch me while considering my adversions to being touched. It’s really difficult to remain present and kind with E when she is constantly touching me. I don’t like being touched and honestly half the time it makes my skin crawl. Wearing her gives her that close contact she craves without it being focused to the surface area of her tiny hand. This makes it significantly more bearable.
As an individual, babywearing helps me to disengage with the surrounding public. You can’t politely stare at your phone in crowded gatherings. You can, however, disengage by cuddling your kid. I can go out and be social without being forced to maintain eye contact, small talk, or acknowledging the discomfort that comes with standing close to too many people. This is especially good because I don’t want to be antisocial. I enjoy hanging out with friend and forming new relationships. The process to it all can just become terribly overwhelming and taxing before it does for others.
Overall, Babywearing is a win for everyone. The kids are happy. I’m happy. And strangers are happy that they don’t have to bear through awkward small talk. Cheers all around!