Like every other community in the world, autism is filled with buzzwords that nearly everyone uses.
And like every other human in the world, some of these buzzwords annoy the shit out of me.
At the top of the list is the word choice, as it is used by Tosh's teachers and therapists. As in, "today Tosh made some poor choices and acted aggressively toward staff."
Now, I'm all about life being a series of choices. In fact, I am absolutely not down with the victim attitude that has taken over America. Everyone is a victim these days. It doesn't take long watching the news or scanning your Facebook feed to wonder if life has become one big contest to see who is the most oppressed.
In the long game of life, happiness and success are indeed a choice.
But if you're a kid with autism, and have a medical disability that prevents you from stopping and deciding how to react when you become agitated or overstimulated, your response is beyond your control.
By using the word "choice" to describe these moments, educators and therapists are reinforcing the myth that autism is nothing more than bad behavior. It conveys the message that if these kids would just control themselves, they wouldn't be autistic.
That's judgmental and downright offensive. Yes, kids with autism need better impulse control in order to comply with neurotypical standards that dominate educational settings. And, they can't go around hitting and kicking if they want to be able to travel about freely in society. Impulse control is one of the most valuable skills they can learn.
But for a kid with autism, that's a tall order. Impulse control means overriding brain chemistry and fighting against their entire nervous system.
How many adults can't manage their own impulse control to successfully lose 25 pounds, stick to a workout regimen or resist the urge to blow their household budget at Target? And we're talking about neurotypical adults, not children with autism.
Yes, when any kid - neurotypical or autistic - is in a position to make a choice that will result in a positive or negative outcome, by all means use it as a teaching moment. But let's lay off applying the word to our kids when their autism robs them of that choice.
Heather Anderson is a blissfully happy autism mom and lover of life in Southern California who is on a mission to help autism parents rediscover their happy place.
Please join me on this beautiful autism journey. The Autism Oasis is a fun, supportive and educational community where your personal development is just as important as your children's. You are more than just a caregiver!