What’s an autism martyr mom?
In the eyes of the #actuallyautistic community, an autism martyr mom is a mom who expresses negativity about autism and complains about how it has impacted her life. They believe autism moms are using their children to seek pity. See screenshots below.
The #actuallyautistic community, a group of autistic adults, likes to shame parents who express sadness about their children’s diagnosis. They come after me personally, too. (Hi guys!) One part of their platform is that only autistic people should be able to speak about autism because they are the ones living with it. They believe that parents of autistic children are furthering the belief that autistic people are less-than, as if being sad about your child’s inability to communicate or stay safe is incompatible with loving your child. I’m autistic but to them, I’m also a “martyr mom.”
Autism mom shaming
See this tweet above? This is the reaction we, parents of autistic children, get when we express any morsel of negativity about our children’s diagnosis. And you know what? I’m tired of it. I’m tired of the #actuallyautistic community contributing to what’s an already extremely difficult thing to do: being vulnerable. Autism does not only affect the person who has it. It affects everybody in the family unit.
You see that mom in the photo that the #actuallyautistic community is mocking as “martyr parent?” I’ve been her. I’ve hidden in the closet, and in my car, to cry my eyes out when I was scared. Just yesterday actually. Scared of what Charlie’s future will be like. Scared that he’ll end up putting himself in danger and that I won’t always be here to save him. Scared that he’ll never live an independent life. But also sad. Sad he can’t communicate beyond basic needs. Sad he screams hundreds of times a day and I can’t make it better. Sad for him, and yes, also for me.
I’ve been raising this wonderful human for almost 6 years and I’m longing to connect with him, to see him happy, to see him able to keep himself safe, to take care of himself in the most basic way, and to be able to give him a hug without being pushed away by his little hand. Maybe that makes me an autism martyr mom, but that also makes me human.
Sharing these difficult moments is not about seeking pity. It’s about sharing experiences with people who get it, it’s about connecting with other parents who live similar experiences so we don’t feel so alone. I often get messages from parents of autistic children who want to talk about autism but are terrified of being harassed by this community. That makes me sad.
Autism isn’t the same for everyone
And yes! You’re damn right my kid’s autism “isn’t the same as your autism”. An an autistic person, you should know that there are no two identical autistics. You speak from a place of privilege being high-functioning. I know first hand how incredibly hard living with an invisible disability is. I know because I, too, am autistic. But it’s not comparable to being severely autistic like my son, Charlie. To not being able to communicate beyond basic needs (not just talk but communicate!), use the bathroom independently, or to not know that running in front a car could get you killed. But you know what? I hope that one day Charlie will be high-functioning enough to tell me to fuck off and to stop whining about autism online. For now though, I’ll be his voice and advocate.
And I’m sorry. I’m sorry for not being that perfect mom that autistic adults expect me to be. I’m sorry I can’t smile and joke around at all times. But I’m not sorry for sometimes sharing our struggles with the world. I’m not sorry for making people feel understood in this journey as parents that can sometimes be so lonely and downright depressing. If reading my posts helps one parent of an autistic child then it was worth it. Signed, an actually autistic autism martyr mom.
I love you, Charlie. You are not less-than, and I hope you’ll grow up in a kinder world.