Category Archives: Elizabeth J. Grace

Friendship – Another Myth Regarding Autism

My friend Ibby is here staying with us for a few days.  It’s a working visit, but that doesn’t take away from the joy we are all experiencing because she is here.  Who says work cannot also be a blast?

Emma and Ibby 

Em and Ib

I’ve spoken of Ibby many times on this blog (here, here, here and here to link a few) because Ib has, more than any single human being, done more to change my views regarding autism and my daughter than any other person.  I know that may sound hyperbolic, but it’s actually not.  It’s true.  Or as Ib would say, “Fact.”  And it is.  Fact.  Another fact is the gratitude I feel toward her.  Just tremendous gratitude for opening my eyes, not just to one thing, but to multiple things.  As an example, here is just one little thing that happened as a direct result of Ib.

Ib gently urged me to watch the documentary Wretches and Jabberers.  When I did not immediately watch it, she reminded me and again encouraged me to rent it.  I think she had to remind me three times, before I actually sat down and watched it.  And because I watched W& J, when I presented at the Autcom Conference last fall I went to hear Harvey, Tracy, Pascal and Larry’s presentation on supported typing and because I went to that presentation I had the idea that maybe, just maybe it might be the thing that could help my daughter communicate more reliably and because I had that idea I approached Pascal and asked if he was ever in New York City and because I asked him that, Pascal began helping us learn to support Em and because we started helping support Em I began to understand what presuming competence really meant and on it goes like the “If You Give a Mouse a Cookie” books, one thing leads to another and another and suddenly you look back and see that this person, this one person has influenced another (me) and the ripple effect is so far-reaching and beyond anything anyone could have imagined.

The Wretches and Jabberers example was just one example of one tiny thing Ib had a hand in.  I could name at least a dozen or more much larger examples, like the conversation (documented ‘here‘) we had about language and my daughter’s specifically and how sometimes she says things that seem completely unrelated to anything that’s going on, but how it is related, even if it’s not related in any way I can identify.  Sometimes it’s a leap-frog kind of association, often there’s an emotional component too, so when she suddenly blurts out, “No not going to see motorcycle bubbles” I now know Em is thinking about visiting her Granma in Colorado or is anticipating an electrical storm or watching the 4th of July fireworks display from the ranch. There’s excitement and maybe some anxiety and even fear and eager anticipation.   I know this now because Ib has helped me understand and has taught me how to “lean into” her words and not try to do a word for word translation.

Ib and I have been working on a book together about Autism, Inclusion and Friendship.  As a result I am thinking a great deal about friendships and relationships in general what they mean and how they develop and how the very definition of friendship is about inclusion and support and accommodation and giving each other slack and cheering each other on and appreciation and gratitude and being there for the other person.  It’s a mutual give and take and it’s reciprocal.  Relationships are basically what make this world and life worth living.  Ironically friendship was the thing I wrote about on this blog’s first entry.  It was what I wanted my daughter to experience, but feared she might not ever have, because I believed what I was being told about autism and that myth surrounding autism and being alone.

Over three years ago, when I started this blog, I wrote, “…hope that we may help our daughter Emma, now 8 years old, lead a life that includes deep friendships and the powerful bonds that result from being able to communicate with one another.  A life that is enriched by our interactions..  this is what I dream of for her..”   Who knew that not only would my definition of what constitutes “communication” completely change, but so would my mistaken ideas about my daughter’s ability to have friendships.  As an added plus Ibby is not only in my life, but in my entire family’s!

So yeah, Ib is really important to me.  I love her dearly; we do all the things friends do when they get together: confide in each other, laugh, hang out without having to talk, hang out and talk and talk and talk, cry, and when we aren’t physically together we stay in touch.  But as with all really close friends, Ib is in my mind and heart regardless of where she is.  I think about her and when we haven’t spoken for a few days we reach out to each other and connect, sometimes briefly if we’re both busy, but she’s always “here” in my heart.

As Ib has said, “Friendship is Fact.”

Vanilla cake with vanilla icing – made by Emma, Nic and me 

Ib's Cake

 

Those Who Influence..

There have been a number of Autistic people who through their writing or by meeting them have greatly influenced my thinking and radically changed how I view autism.  Through their writing and/or our direct interactions I began to question everything I thought I knew.  I began to see that so much of the information I’d been given was false.  It was because of these people that I have a level of understanding about the problems with *functioning labels, the problematic issues surrounding *segregating Autistic children from other non Autistic children not only in the classroom, but in life.  I have a better understanding about how *important the words used to describe autism and Autistic people can do tremendous damage or, conversely shift the conversation to one of better understanding and progress.

*I have put related posts below for each of these topics.

All of this brings me to Ibby.

Ibby was/is someone who radically changed my thinking, and continues to change how I think about autism and my daughter.  I have written about Ibby before ‘here‘ and ‘here‘.  We met at a disabilities conference not quite a year ago, where she was presenting.  Ib has changed my life.  I don’t know how else to describe someone who is not only a close friend, but who has patiently advised me, explained things that I didn’t understand, didn’t judge me, never shamed me, but instead was kind, loving, compassionate and very, very patient with me.  For those of you not familiar with Ibby, I hope you’ll go to her blog and read her writing.  If there is one thing I would like to see change regarding autism”awareness”, it is that the public become familiar with Autistic people like Ibby, who are tirelessly speaking out and patiently trying to bridge the massive gap between public perception surrounding autism and Autistic people, and reality.

There are a number of people who have been crucial in influencing me, Ibby is one of them.

Related topics