The Relationship Between the Adult Autistic Community and the Parents of Autistic Children

Maisie Waring
January 16, 2024

As both an Autistic adult, and the parent of an Autistic two-year-old, I get to observe the interactions between both sides of the community from a unique standpoint. There is so much friction between two groups of people who ultimately have the same goal – to improve the way Autistic people live and exist in society, and this needs to change.

I have experienced both situations where my voice has been silenced by Autistic adults when speaking on issues directly relating to my son, and where parents have told me that I can’t understand the problems they face just from being Autistic. It isn’t until I mention that I am both a parent and Autistic that those chastising me even begin to show respect for my words. And my words didn’t change once they knew my identity, the advice I gave was no more or less helpful, but the attitudes towards me and the ‘validity’ of my thoughts did.

I understand how we’ve got to this point, but it doesn’t make it any less problematic. Autistic adults have been spoken over for years. Parents of Autistic children have held the microphone for so long, they’ve created organisations and narratives that have actively harmed Autistic adults for decades. After all, allistic parents of Autistic children have historically pushed for cures that would require eugenics, have told stories of how they wished their children had cancer rather than Autism, and have erased the existence of Autistic adults altogether. This is a part of the history of the community that cannot be ignored, and shouldn’t be forgotten. Understandably, Autistic adults harbour resentment toward a group that has oppressed them. But while this anger is valid, it is not productive. And we as Autistic adults can either sit on this anger, or we can collectively decide on a future of working towards acceptance is more important.

Working together takes effort from us all. We all have to recognise that we have our individual roles in this dynamic. I have a post from 09/03/2022 that speaks more about our roles as that is a complex subject in itself. We all have to be open to learning from each other, and we have to accept that sometimes listening is more powerful than insisting that what we have previously learned is right. Human brains are wonderful and mighty things, but when they come together and share their knowledge and that knowledge is truly shared and absorbed, they can do magical things.

There is so much out there we have to work against, there are people who want to hurt us and our children, and believe we shouldn’t exist or should be locked away. There are Autistic people in institutions being physically abused as I write this. We have SO much work to do to make society truly inclusive of all Autistic people, and we are wasting time arguing amongst each other about what is the most inoffensive language to use (and this isn’t me dismissing these arguments, but they shouldn’t be at the top of our priorities like they currently seem to be).

Being Autistic is hard. Parenting an Autistic child is hard. There is so much commonality between these two groups that have declared an unspoken war against each other and all the while, deadly issues are being left unsolved.

The SEN Expert offers a range of services for young people, families and schools. We offer support for parents to help navigate the complex world of Special Educational Needs. We will work with you closely to ensure the best for your child.

The SEN Expert was set up by Claire in 2021 following a successful career spanning 12 years in school improvement, special educational needs, safeguarding and the arts.

Claire has worked as a Deputy Headteacher, Assistant Headteacher, Consultant and SENCO in both state and private schools in inner city London, the Southwest, the Midlands and the USA.

Throughout her career, Claire has ensured solid outcomes for the young people she has worked with. Be that a set of good exam grades, a placement in specialist setting or getting a part time job.

Claire is a working mother, and understands the challenges parents face trying to ensure their children are happy and successful. We aim to provide young people with a creative route to the personal and professional adult life they deserve.

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