Ear defenders and sunglasses were required for MissG to make it to the dinner table last night.
I have been aware lately of letting her do what she is comfortable with to cope with sensory input. I want her to grow up feeling confident about who she is and unashamed of doing what feels right to her. I hate the thought that she might grow up feeling she has to conform to what others do to feel valuable. But I am also aware of her need to feel accepted and not different from everybody.
There is, unfortunately, a lack of Autistic adult role models in my childrens lives, and I find myself relying on a few wonderful people I have met online as my main source of Autistic adult role model for my kids, even though they will likely never meet them in real life. I suspect these people are quite unaware of the impact they are having on my family and how grateful I am for it. One way I do this is by showing the kids photos of these people and telling the stories I know from chatting with them online. I talk about their strengths and all the things they can do. I talk about strategies I know they use to manage their challenges.
So, as MissG sat at the table with her ear defenders and sunglasses on I mentioned that I know some adults who use ear defenders. We talked about that a bit and she asked to see them. I said they live far away, but I could show her a photo. So we had a look online for Paula and found a picture of her wearing ear defenders and sunglasses! MissG was really happy about it. She looked for a while......
"Is she Autistic, just like me?"
"And sometimes things are too loud for her?"
"She looks a bit funny" (pointing to the ear defenders)
"She looks happy to me"
"Because she has her ear defenders?"
"Yes, I think they help her feel better when things are loud"
"Just like me?"
....... and we had a great talk about being Autistic and how its ok to do what you need to when you are a kid and even when you are an adult. We also looked at Paula's Autism Acceptance blog's picture gallery and talked about the images we saw there, and I took the opportunity to introduce the idea of typing for communication instead of speaking to MissG. She liked that idea very much because "sometimes those grown ups get sad and can't talk, just like me?"
How important it is that we have people we can relate to on our journeys! I can't tell you how fortunate I feel to be able to show my daughter others "just like her" as a way of helping her feel more confident to be herself.