Broken Plates | Organization for Autism Research

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As a father with a child with autism, Rob Gorski emphasizes the importance of juggling tasks or “plates” and filtering out judgment by others. This blog post was originally posted on The Autism Dad and is re-posted here with permission.

The other day, I was talking about judgment on Twitter and it became a discussion with numerous parents because it’s something that’s still a problem, even in 2019. Everyone shared their personal and often ongoing experiences with being judged by people and while there’s comfort in knowing that I’m not alone, it’s heartbreaking to see that so many parents are dealing with the same thing.

I’ve talked about this at nauseum over the years and rather than reinvent the wheel, think of this as a refresher course on why we shouldn’t judge Autism/Special Needs parents.

First of all, everytime I talk about this, someone inevitably chimes in that I put myself out there, so what do I expect. Let’s just head that off at the pass. Yes, I’m in a slightly different situation because I’m a public figure of sorts. I understand that by putting myself out there, I’m opening myself up to judgment, ridicule and a host of other unpleasantness. At the same time, just because I’m putting myself out there, doesn’t give anyone the right to cast judgment. While I have developed thicker skin over the years, it still sucks.

Unfortunately, this also happens to almost every single Autism/Special Needs parent at one point in time and often without provocation.

One of the things that’s really important to understand about human nature is that we are hardwired to judge. In some situations, I think judgment is crucial to our survival.

Where judgment can become a problem, however, is when we judge what we don’t understand, with limited information and very little, if any, first hand knowledge of the circumstances.

Autism parents frequently find themselves on the receiving end of judgment. Often times, people aren’t shy about pointing out what they think, even when they haven’t been asked. We hear things about our kids all the time. Among the most common situations is when we’re out in public and our child with Autism has a meltdown. People make comments about how we’re terrible parents or our child is a spoiled brat.

We hear things like that child needs a butt whooping or I’d never let my child act like that in public. My personal favorite is when I’m told by someone that I shouldn’t bring a child like that out in public. It’s honestly pretty awful at times.

Nevermind that neither bad parenting nor a spoiled child are at fault and in fact, the child in question is suffering.

I’ve had that happen in one form or another, countless times over the years and it sucks every single time.

Another common situation is when parents are judged based on how well we keep up with the house, yard, bills and anything else along those lines.

An Autism parent is many things, including sleep deprived, emotionally and physically exhausted, but not lazy or irresponsible.

It’s easy to peek in the front window and see a pile of dirty laundry, toys all over the floor, stacks of unpaid bills on the table, a sink full of dirty dishes or a kid running around with little if any clothing on and assume the worst.

Often times, however, the reality is much different than it appears on the surface.

Over the years, I’ve been very open, honest and transparent about the struggles my family faces, knowing full well that I open myself up to the judgemental eyes of the public. I do this because I know I’m not alone and I know that other parents find comfort in knowing they aren’t the only ones struggling. I know this helps because I hear from parents all the time, telling me they’re so grateful for all the you’re not alone reminders.

It’s easy to peek in the front window and see a pile of dirty laundry, toys all over the floor, stacks of unpaid bills on the table, a sink full of dirty dishes or a kid running around with little if any clothing on and assume the worst.

Often times, however, the reality is much different than it appears on the surface.

Over the years, I’ve been very open, honest and transparent about the struggles my family faces, knowing full well that I open myself up to the judgemental eyes of the public. I do this because I know I’m not alone and I know that other parents find comfort in knowing they aren’t the only ones struggling. I know this helps because I hear from parents all the time, telling me they’re so grateful for all the you’re not alone reminders.

In the Twitter discussion from the other day, I used an example of juggling to help put this into perspective.

All parents have to be able to juggle things and for the sake of argument, let’s just refer to those things as plates.

We all have to keep as many of those plates in the air as we can and try to limit the number that hit the floor.

Having to juggle everything in general, isn’t easy for any parent. When you’re an Autism and/or Special Needs parent, however, the number of plates we have to keep in the air dramatically increases. Not only that but there’s an endless stream of new plates flying at us from all directions, all hours of the day and night. We have to try and keep all those plates from hitting the floor as well.

I don’t like using the word impossible very often but I’ve no qualms about saying that it’s impossible to keep every single plate in the air for any length of time. We have to constantly triage and re-triage each plate, in real time, as we’re juggling them.

We have to quickly decided if each new plate, hurled in our direction is important enough to keep in the air, and if necessary, which of the plates already in the air can be sacrificed to make room for a more important one.

It’s not easy and sometimes we drop plates that, ideally wouldn’t or shouldn’t be dropped. Plates will be missed and they will shatter on the floor, not because we’re terrible or irresponsible parents but because we’re human.

When someone peeks in your window, only to judge you for all the plates they see shattered on the floor, they’re failing to see the hundreds or thousands of plates that haven’t.

We feel guilty for every single plate that shatters because we’re harder on ourselves than anyone else ever could be. Judgment can be demoralizing and it only adds to the guilt we already feel. Frankly, we don’t need anyone’s help to feel guilty because we do just fine on our own.


About the Author

robgorskiautismdadphoto

 

Rob Gorski is a 40 year old advocate, writer, hardcore techie, Google android fanatic and host of The Autism Dad Podcast. He is also a dad to 3 amazing boys and husband to his best friend.


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