Standing in the Middle of the Road

What’s up, April? You’re back, and it’s 2021 now. What a decade this past year has been, said the world before the middle of the second year of the 2020s.

Masks galore. Sanitizers that smell like a distillery. Virtual effing everything. Quarantines. A little bit of everything in between. Oh, and a serious lack of toilet paper, Clorox wipes, spaghetti, and macaroni and cheese (what?!).

2021 for me personally marks not only surviving a year of this madness, but also two decades since my son’s diagnosis of autism. If you’ve followed me for a while or read Imprisoned No More, you know that this was the year I was also arrested during an incident where I was trying to protect him from self-injury.

We’ve come a long way since then, he and I. Today, I lead at both an amazing organization where we offer a variety of services, as well as own a business where I can continue to serve people in many ways. My son is also in a service role, working full-time at a day program for persons with disabilities, including autism.

April 2nd is almost here.

What will Chris and I wear that day?

Red? Gold? Blue? Rainbows? Puzzles? Infinity symbols?

No matter what we choose?

Someone will tell us we’re wrong.

I’ve been engaged in this tirade for twenty years. Who’s right? Who’s wrong?

Finger pointing.

Accusations.

Name-calling.

In fact, just weeks ago, I posted a picture with a friend’s child at our center. He was crawling through a tunnel and I was kneeling next to him, watching, and giggling under my mask.

He was laughing.

Playing.

And . . . I was labeled a “child abuser” (hey, where have I heard that before?!) by an Instagram user who said I was “abusing him with ABA.”

Ummmmm . . . we weren’t even in a session. I’m not even a clinician! But someone jumped to judgment, and decided to “speak for all,” and labeled me. And quite frankly, triggered me.

And that was unfair.

Don’t we all want the same things?

Diversity?

Equality?

Equity?

Belonging?

The fields of ABA, SLP, OT, and the overall community as a whole has come ridiculously far. We are NOT there yet — oh no, dear friends, not by a long shot. But we’ve come incredibly far, and for that I’m grateful. I’m excited to do more, for more.

I’m so appreciative of the thousands upon thousands of amazing people I’ve met along the way, especially including those neurodivergent individuals who have helped me to develop into a better leader, a better mother, a better advocate, and stronger ally.

What I do not and cannot appreciate are people who choose to bully therapists, aides, educators, and those persons doing amazing work and that have giving hearts who want to make a difference — and who do.

I am NOT and will NEVER be ok with chastising parents and caregivers who pour into their loved ones with their heart and soul, determined for their loved ones to live their best life for . . . simply feeling their feelings. No, autism isn’t our diagnosis. But it affects us in different ways as we learn to understand, and grow, and search for answers, and that is something we cannot take away. People are allowed to feel their feelings.

What can we do? What should we do?

Listen.

Learn.

Collaborate.

Have two way conversations (one way are unproductive) and let’s learn from each other.

No one is superior.

No one has all the answers.

I don’t speak for everyone. But neither does anyone else.

I felt Eileen Lamb’s — The Autism Cafe, please follow her with her “flappy hands, happy hearts” if you’re not — recent post where she said that she as an autistic adult feels like she’s in a grey area, caught in between two worlds.

Holy shit, I felt that.

That’s how I have always — always — felt as a parent and as a professional. Then again, I’m so damn neutral in my religious views and political views, that me feeling this way about a community I love and support should not be a surprise.

I’m standing in the middle of the damn road.

It’s hard to decide where to walk next.

Which path is right?

Which do I choose?

Will someone be waiting for me with open arms, or will I be faced with someone staring me down with fury in their eyes?

Well, I’ll tell you what we will probably be wearing on April 2nd.

Chris may very well be in a blue shirt — sure as hell not because he supports a particular organization (that’s a story for another time if you haven’t heard how that said entity devastated our family). Dammit, he likes to wear blue. It’s his favorite color, and it was Dad’s favorite color. And if his autistic voice matters and he gets to choose his path, he gets to choose his shirt.

Me? I’ll be in ATS gear, like I am every day, ready to change the world for the better in any way I can. Our name, our symbol at Achieving True Self were both chosen with neurodiversity in mind and such voices contributed. I’m so grateful for our mission, our vision, our values, and our beliefs. Our passionate team inspires lives and motivates others each and every day.

When I get home? I’ll probably throw on my TCA tee, and after errand running will be editing another collaboration and working on my coaching program before bed.

My personal mission is to leave this world someday better than when I found it.

Well, I guess I’d better quit standing in the middle of the road before I get hit.

I think I’ll keep walking, one foot in front of the other — right, Mama Betty?

Will you join me?

Author: Catherine Hughes

Passionate Advocate. Innovative Storyteller. Engaging Strategist. Author. Editor. Blogger.

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