‘Comparison, a great teacher told me, is the cardinal sin of modern life. It traps us in a game we can’t win. Once we define ourselves in terms of others we lose the freedom to shape our own lives.’ Jim Collins, Author ‘Built to Last’
Comparisons are my weakness. I compare everything and everyone. I compare my son to his typically developing peers, his high-achieving cousins and other children on the autism spectrum. What am I looking for? Any clue to demonstrate that “Our son is making progress” or “Connor is rapidly closing the achievement gap.” Of course, Connor is making progress! Every day and in every way he learns something new, just like everyone else. How silly I am to think like this, and yet my heart sinks to my toes when I see a group of children talking comfortably with each other as though they were already adults or throwing a baseball back and forth with ease. I also compare myself to other parents. What might I be missing? A new therapy? A new therapist, school or doctor? A new diet? Am I spending enough time with Connor? Do I have the right balance of focusing on his strengths and interests while working on/making accommodations for the areas that are most difficult for him?
Another comparison I frequently engage in is to search for things not to do. Much of this is also rooted in my own insecurity, such as “There is no way I’m going to act like that with my kid. Those are really bad parents who didn’t even care to get their child the help she needed, and now she’s a mess.” Really, who am I to judge?
Most of the time, I stay fairly level -headed, but a little self-doubting part of me wonders if there is more I could be doing to help prepare Connor for adulthood, and how to avoid the problems I’ve witnessed with other families who deal with drugs, alcoholism, neglect or abdication of their roles as parents. The specter of those children who grow up without having good choices haunts me. But comparison is much easier than the very difficult task of figuring out precisely what my child needs and how to balance those interventions with the same [and very real] quality of life and acceptance issues that our society- schools, law enforcement, employers – need to overcome on behalf of the thousands of individuals with autism…including my son.