Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Diplomatic Warrior

Diplomatic warrior. Sounds strange, doesn’t it? Well, I think it’s a term that fits me. There was a time in my life when I was disparagingly dubbed a “diplomat.” In fact, being too diplomatic cost me an amazing opportunity while I was in college. Ultimately, that loss brought me to this very moment - fighting the good fight for my boys.
Our family’s journey with autism has caused me to become the warrior mom that I am today. I wear the badge proudly. I work hard to help my kids. If you get in my way, prepare to be steamrolled by one tough Mama Bear! My boys have made amazing strides, but it certainly hasn’t been easy. Nothing about it has been easy. But, they are recovering, and I can tell you that life is better now than it was even a year ago.
I’ve become a different person over the past few years. For instance, I never thought I would run a support group. Ever. But, I’m now in my third year of sharing and learning with a group of great parents. We all work and fight to help our children in the best way we can. A label doesn’t have to define your child’s experience. In fact, it can propel you forward to positive change.
While working with my group and a local nonprofit over the past few years, I learned that legitimate connection with people often trumps the need to always have the “right” answer. I can be strong-willed and opinionated. There are a few topics that I could easily do a lengthy verbal dissertation on. Some of my poor friends have heard me do just that! I don’t know how they can put up with me sometimes. We all have our hot-button issues, but we also learn how to pick our battles. Honey is better than vinegar, right?
There have been times that I’ve gained knowledge and perspective by simply shutting my mouth and listening to ideas that challenge my view. It doesn’t mean that I will always agree, but sometimes I can truly see the value in something that is exceedingly different from my own current thinking.
The autism community could use a good dose of diplomacy right about now. Facebook has lit up the past few days with issues that divide the various autism “parties.” I’ve also seen this kind of division and rhetoric in my own community. There are so many reasons to have a strong viewpoint when it comes to autism!
Do you think it’s safe to vaccinate, or are vaccinations contributing to the incidence of autism?
Do you believe in embracing neurodiversity, or do you choose to pursue biomedical treatments to help alleviate and improve medical symptoms related to autism?
Do you think Dr. Wakefield is a quack, or do you think he’s a doctor who has risked his entire career to help families with autism?
These and other topics are polarizing. Parents are tired from their daily autism battle. When you throw in strong dissent from the very thing you’ve cried and bled over, things can get messy. And, it can get very ugly, very fast.
As the saying goes, “Can we agree to disagree?”
When was the last time you had a discussion with a friend about religion or politics? Do you always have the same opinion as they do? Probably not. I think this easily carries over into the world of autism.
As far as I’m concerned, my role is pretty simple. I choose to share my experience so that others might have an easier journey with their child. You may disagree with my advice, opinion or methods, but that’s okay. And, I might disagree with you, too.
Autism is so prevalent and pervasive that it is literally kicking our collective backside right now! I’d rather fight beside you than against you. How about we all give each other a measure of respect, show some diplomacy, and battle on?  
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