A few weeks ago I wrote a blog about autism and medication and I went on a tangent (shocking I know) about an experience that my wife and I had with a local DFW autism organization and a few parents who made us feel a bit uncomfortable and I named them the “Validation Parent”
I received a large number of emails, Facebook replies and Twits about that phrase and similar stories…so I thought I’d expand on The Validation Parent and hopefully encourage you or those you know…TO NOT BE ONE!
Here’s how the story went…
Our son was diagnosed with autism when he was 2 1/2 years old. Although my wonderful wife was equipped with a degree in Speech Pathology, a master’s degree in Deaf Education and Special Education and had worked as a Sign Language Teacher, a Diagnostician and an Inclusion Specialist in the Texas Public School (insert moan, groan and laugh here) System…when William was diagnosed, we were totally clueless and felt like we were all alone on the Autism Island.
We started researching groups and organizations to get involved with in hopes that we would find people we could relate to and learn from…find a safe place for our family.
We made calls and talked to people and checked out Websites and found a place in the area that we wanted to check out.
I’m not going to name names or organizations because we very much respect this organization and their leaders…they line up with many of our viewpoints and are doing great things…some of their members however made us run in the opposite direction.
We went to an event with a bounce house, candy find, other events that would keep the children entertained. It was great seeing William around others on the spectrum and he always loves bouncing…so that was fun.
While we were all standing around we started visiting with other parents…they were all very nice but we soon would run into a few that just wanted to be validated in their methods.
“You’ve got to be gluten free!” one lady screamed at me.
Okay…well we had our son tested for gluten allergy and he didn’t have one, we put him (and rest of family) on gluten free diet for a while and it was expensive, difficult and didn’t change anything.
“The entire problem is the government’s fault and mercury in shots and that’s what caused it all!” another parent informed me.
Remember…I don’t know these parents. We just got there and they’re trying to push their agenda on us.
“If you don’t do this or that or these or those…you might as well give up”…literally that’s how it came across.
Look…I GET IT…WE ALL HAVE OUR OPINIONS AND VIEWS AND WE ALL WANT TO BE HEARD…but for crying out loud.
The entire experience left a very sour taste in our mouths as we quickly left the event.
Melanie and I have our thoughts on what did and didn’t cause our son to have autism. We have our views on medication and therapy and food and blaaa blaaa blaa. If you want to know them…just ask and we’ll tell you.
But what I realized is that so many parents are just scared…we’re angry, sad, fearful, bitter…you name it.
Except for a limited few, funds are limited, options are going to be limited and inevitability we as parents are going to have to decide what the best path of attacking our individual situations with autism will be.
But we all want our opinions, our ideas, our path to success to be validated as the best one. No one wants to knowingly or willingly pick the path that isn’t good or successful.
No parent goes into it thinking “well, we’ll do the bare minimum and maybe that will help our child with autism succeed.”
We all want to be patted on the back and told “your idea and opinions are the best and you’re doing the best job possible for your child!”
The problem is that THERE IS NO RIGHT OR WRONG PATH when dealing with autism. Just like the ailment, every child on the spectrum is 100% completely different.
All this to say DON’T BE A VALIDATION PARENT…it only ticks other people off or sours them on what could be a very fruitful relationship.
If you don’t like the way my family is handling our situation, then don’t do what we’re doing.
If you think one therapy or medication or treatment is better…then by all means…do it!
It’s not a competition people…you’re not going to get a gold, silver or bronze medal for the way you and your family attack autism.
Your reward and your validation is the relationship and interaction you have with your spouse, your child and the rest of your family.
So if you find yourself in a situation where someone is trying to cram their viewpoint down your throat…just say “hey, I know you want the best for your child. I’m glad that you found a path that you feel is best for your family, budget and situation. I respect that but please don’t feel the need to validate your views to me because our situation is totally different.”
If that doesn’t shut them up…then make up some crazy homemade concoction or remedy you’ve created to “cure autism” and maybe that will freak them out.
Until there’s a “cure”…don’t worry about other families, worry about you and your family and do the best thing for your situation.