Yesterday I posted about some struggles I am having, and how sometimes I have to do things that make people stare in order to keep my daughter safe.
This morning I was on my Facebook page and I saw something unusual. I noticed a couple of pages talking about being weird as though it was a good thing. I clicked over to their blogs, and found this post titled Weird is the New Normal and this post called Weird Apple. There are other blogs out there posting similar things, and it is all part of a community supporting each other that started when one mum asked for help encouraging her ASD son who was worried about being teased for being weird at his new school. I read a few of these posts, and realised something.
I am weird too.
I've been coming to this conclusion for a while now. I started thinking about it when I read a blog post called Aspergers Traits. You see, up until then, I'd never thought of the possibility that I might be "on the spectrum". Yet there I was reading this lady's thoughts about being a woman with Aspergers and what it is like, and I was relating strongly to so much of what she said!!
Now- to be clear- I am not diagnosing myself with an Autistic Spectrum Disorder. I know enough about the diagnostic criteria for ASD to know that I would not qualify for a diagnosis. What I am saying is that as a spectrum of disorder the Autistic Spectrum contains a lot of behavioural symptoms that show up in a lot of people. To be diagnosed on the spectrum you have to have a large number of these behaviours and they must be impacting on your life in a significant enough way that they are deemed to be intrusive or detrimental. This is not the case for me, but I can relate to a lot of the "weird" things that people on the spectrum struggle with.
I count patterns on my fingers when I am a bit bored or a bit nervous. One place I do this a lot is in doctors waiting rooms.
I like numbers that end in 5, or even numbers. This is because they are easy to divide down to a smaller number.
I enjoy hanging the washing on the line by colour. With matching pegs. It gives me a sense of calm and control to see things flapping on the line in a coordinated rainbow of colour.
After I finish showering I have to dry myself with a washer while I'm still inside the shower cubicle, and then with a towel outside the shower cubicle. If I don't do this I don't feel like I'm properly dry.
I could go on, but you get the idea.
Here's the thing. I am normal. Really. I do some weird stuff. But that's OK with me. The fact that I count my fingers and have to dry myself twice doesn't make any difference to anybody else. It doesn't hurt anyone, or even inconvenience them. They are just little oddities that unless I tell you about you'd never know.
For my 2 kids who have Autism their little oddities are more obvious.
L likes to play computer games to relax. So do heaps of people. The difference is that for him it is an obsession. More than that, even. Sometimes he NEEDS to play computer games to be able to relax. A bit like I need to breathe oxygen. So you can probably understand my frustration when someone says something along the lines of- gee, he plays a lot of computer games, it's all he ever talks about, can't you just tell him no and not let him play as much?
G likes to not be touched by people she doesn't know. I don't really either, but I can control my reaction when it happens. G can't. She feels that sort of touch as pain and it frightens her. So you can imagine my annoyance when, in order to keep her from running away due to sensory overload while we are out because of people walking into her personal space, I put a back pack with a lead on my tall, almost 5 year old, and people comment to each other about how I am "walking my child like a dog and should just discipline her better" (yes, sweet-looking-old-lady, I heard that).
G also cannot bear to be touched by anyone, even me, when she has hurt herself, and the sight of blood really freaks her out. I learned the hard way not to touch her until I have permission, but to wait until the initial intense reaction dies down a bit before trying to help her. If you are a parent you know how hard it is to stand by and watch helplessly while your child suffers. So you can see how I could be upset at the assumption that because I don't rush to her aid that I am cold hearted or uncaring.
But here's the thing. As much as the weird things I do that people don't know about don't hurt them, neither do the weird things I do that people do know about. What difference does it make to anyone if my daughter wears a lead while we are out shopping? Does it actually affect anyone else's life if I comfort her now or in 90 seconds? I might look weird to some, but do you know what?- those people look weird to me. Because they will criticise me no matter what I do, without knowing the reasons for my actions. If I put a lead on my daughter they criticise me. If I don't and she ends up under a car, they'll criticise me.
Ultimately I prefer to be criticised for doing what is right for my kids. So- here's to the weird stuff my kids do and the weird stuff I do. Because if doing it makes our lives better, calmer and safer, I say.... the weirder the better!!