I Don’t Mind Pity

This is in response to some posts I’ve read from some really lovely mothers of autistic children.  I understand where they are coming from but I would like to present a friendly alternative argument.

I like being autistic, I could do without the accompanying depression/anxiety & physical illness, but I am still glad to be me.  And I am so impressed with your pride in your children.  It is so important that the message gets out to the general population that autism is not a horrific sentence that means your life is effectively over and your family’s ruined.  But and this is a big but, ignorance is fought by information not insistence on polite silence.

First if I have a melt down in public I want people to know I am autistic, it is their business because similar behaviour is exhibited by people with a potentially dangerous issue, alcohol, drugs,psychotic break for example.  So wanting to know what is happening is not wrong.  I think a caring, concerned community is a positive change for everyone.  Sympathize with their lack of knowledge and fear of the unknown if their questions are bluntly put.

Pity, when did pity become such a bad thing.  Okay lets phrase it differently; sympathy, human compassion.  If a person says they are sorry for you or your child because your child has autism they are behaving compassionately based on what they understand; autism is a disability.  A warmly phrased reply that you are proud of your child or that autism is not what they might think is incredibly positive; spreading a positive message.  But always remember this person doesn’t have all the information you have & is responding with positivity and try to respect that.

Actually I would say to any parent of a child with autism “I am so sorry”.  Sure I think autism has its benefits but it is a hard road and the family bears a lot of the brunt of the hard work & heart ache it is going to take to get this gifted human to adulthood.  Your life has changed, mourning the easy road & anticipated rewards is not an insult to your child.  You are going to have to go above and beyond to raise your child and most of your rewards are going to be different & delayed.  People who work longer hours at harder less rewarding work deserve our sympathy as well as our respect, awe & gratitude.

Your children are as happy & healthy as ‘their’ children, what’s your secret?  Autism in our modern world involves a lot of pain, physical & emotional.  Autism is not easy.  It has its rewards but it is not easy.  If my priority in life was to be happy I would do anything not to be autistic.  When I say I want to be autistic it is because my priority in life is to be good, to help others.  That is why the pain of autism is worth it because I can be some part of a chain that makes the world better.

Autism with its different neurological processes is a valuable complimentary tool for the world’s progress. In the Arts and Sciences the autistic brain will make breakthroughs the normal brain can not; and the combination of both perspectives working together; Oh my God (I mean this as a form of praise not blasphemy this is how strongly I feel) the wonders of progress that will be achieved.

But the current generation of autistics & their families are paying for that!  Our sensory& social issues mean we will only truly reach our potential with a great deal of support and understanding. It is vitally important that pity is gently nurtured to become sympathy because this is how, together we will continue to build a better world.

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20 thoughts on “I Don’t Mind Pity

  1. I am so glad I found this blog! My youngest son has Asperger’s Syndrome and although he is doing quite well in all areas , he is quite peculiar in his own way and many people look at him as if he is crazy. He’s very sociable and friendly and has only had about half a dozen meltdowns in his life. He’ll be 16 in December. I reblogged this piece because I understand you and I hope to increase awareness and help people move on from a place of pity to a place of respect and, perhaps, understanding and acceptance. Hugs to you and your family.

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    1. I’m glad it sounds like your son is doing well. The big secret is being proactive where you can, which it sounds like you must have been. As he gets older there are lots of clubs and things where he can keep up his socialization; mainstream,sci/fi, anime, comics etc tend to be a great bunch. As you’ve probably read don’t worry friends, pets, a partner, family are all out there for him. All the best and good luck in your future.

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  2. Thank you for this post. I have an autistic daughter who is 12. It is so nice to see another female with autism describe what it is like. It is also a positive reminder to me as a parent to step back from my initial mama bear defensive reactions and remember the other person likely does not have the knowledge about autism that I do. I re-blogged this on my page with your credit added. ( autisminpink@wordpress.com)

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  3. i tend to think of pity as a useless, superficial (even fake) version of compassion+understanding.

    “oh dear, poor thing.” vs. “how can we help? this person has needs that matter.”

    the first one is useless, even condescending. the second one is constructive, human, and actually helps.

    i dont know where fake compassion comes from. i always wish we could send it back! this in response to the question “when did pity get a bad name.” perhaps there is a “good kind” of pity that is sincere– i just think of it as fake compassion, and i think people do these days.

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    1. I know what you mean. I think we should go with the pity and try to push those people towards compassion & understanding; rather than get their backs up and push them towards guilty resentment. Thanks for joining the conversation, I love your input.

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      1. Thanks, we had a lot of fun making the ‘SuperAutistic’ pictures, Alex (the hero) has a great sense of humour and imagination. The kids are really happy to make fun of themselves posing for pictures looking grumpy or lost or whatever and saying “Mum you could use this on your blog”. 🙂

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