Spectrummy Mummy

Asperger's, Allergies, and Adventures Abroad

Coming Out

with 10 comments

I once had a conversation with a friend, who is gay, about Coming Out.  He explained that coming out is a big deal, you build up to it, it takes all your nerve, you finally do it and feel an enormous sense of relief.  Then it dawns on  you that you just came out to a few people, and there are about 6 billion more on this planet.  You have to keep doing it, over and over again every time you meet someone new.  And every time you worry about how they are going to deal with this information.  How will it change they way you are perceived?  Are they even worth sharing this personal information with?

Almost exactly a year ago, we started to notice Pudding’s differences.  We were scared and confused; overwhelmed by the A-word.  We had to acknowledge that our visions of her future did not belong to her, and it was okay to let go of them.  She was the same little girl she always had been; that is to say, a little different.  Still, it was hard to tell friends and family.  We knew our parents would feel that same fear for her future. We hated that awkward silence when we told friends.  It gets easier, though, and the more we feel comfortable about talking, the more questions people are asking.  Questions are easier to deal with than silence.  Questions lead to understanding.  Silence leads to shame.

There is another way.  Pudding’s disability is invisible.  We could keep quiet, hide her secret.  Unfortunately, secrets imply shame, and shame leads to stigma.  We don’t ever want her to feel ashamed about who she is.  We want to take these diagnostic words and demystify them.  To learn about the community of “Aspies” and “Auties” who not only aren’t ashamed of who they are, but take pride in their differences, and their contributions to this world.  We are determined that Pudding and Cubby will grow up taking pride in who they are, whoever they turn out to be.  It will be difficult.  As they get older they may not choose to be open, and that will be their choice.  It is our job to make sure they feel confident and strong enough to make that choice.

I’m thinking about this because on Friday Pudding will have a play date with a new friend.  I’ve been corresponding with the mother over email, but I haven’t mentioned that Pudding has autism.  Do I let her know before we meet so that she is prepared?  Or do I let her and her daughter meet Pudding first, so they can see there is more to her than a diagnosis?  I’m not sure what to do.  Even spectrummy mummies don’t know everything!  Suggestions in the comments please.

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Written by Spectrummy Mummy

July 27, 2010 at 7:08 am

10 Responses

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  1. I don’t know the answer to your question about notifying the mom about Pudding’s diagnosis but I wanted to say that my hope is that as Aspergers and Autism become more widely known/discussed, that coming out process won’t be as difficult. One of my gay friends had a tumultuous coming out process but now, years later, it’s an easier process for him to be open about it because he doesn’t feel apologetic. There is no shame in this and I think you and your husband do a wonderful job discussing what you feel comfortable with. Hopefully, the rest of us just take our cues from you.

    Amy

    July 27, 2010 at 8:29 am

    • I absolutely agree, Amy. The main reason I started this blog was to let our story be known so that is was easier for the next set of parents. And is is easier for us to talk about spectrummy issues because of other parents and individuals with autism have already told their stories. You break the silence, you get rid of the shame, and there goes the stigma.

      spectrummymummy

      July 27, 2010 at 8:45 am

  2. I do understand the approach of letting your playdate partners find out more “organically”.

    I think the only case in which I would prefer to know ahead of time if I were on the other side of the playdate is if there were special considerations that my child or I had to take into account before meeting with your child (I am so ignorant about this diagnosis, so pls forgive if that was offensive). In the end, it’s your information and when you disclose it should be at your discretion. Oh, but I will say that you may want to consider that your daughter may be watching/listening if you choose to disclose that she is autistic, and while YOU may present it in the best of manners, the receiver of the information could be a total jerk. So, in that case, it may be better to inform them ahead of time? I don’t know. My hope is that most people aren’t like that.

    Faiqa

    July 27, 2010 at 8:41 am

  3. If having Aspergers does not define her then why disclose upfront? A topic for conversation with the other little girl’s mother? Sure, but if there is nothing that would change that play date other than the knowledge of her diagnosis by the other party, I’m not sure if it’s neither necessary nor unnecessary. Does that make sense? 😉 Just the same, if you were going to dinner with a new friend you didn’t know was gay, would you expect that person to email you upfront and tell you? It’s neither necessary nor unnecessary.
    I think the kids will play wonderfully whether or not the diagnosis is fully disclosed and your dinner conversation would be just as pleasant whether you knew the sexual orientation.
    Just my $.02.

    Julie

    July 27, 2010 at 10:11 am

    • Now, here is where it gets tricky. Because a play date for Pudding is not going to be like my going for a meal with a gay friend. It is more like that gay man having to go on a date with me, with an expectation of intimacy that he would find abhorrent (I’m okay enough with my sex appeal to say that)! The ASD does affect her play skills. The very core of it is an anxiety with social interaction. Going on a play date is about the hardest thing she can do as a 3 year-old. She is socially-motivated, and wants to play with other kids, but she finds it so hard. She needs to practise these play skills, so one day they will come more naturally to her, but for right now, it is so hard. So when she has to go to a strange place, with new people for the first time, I honestly can’t say how she’ll do.

      spectrummymummy

      July 27, 2010 at 11:06 am

  4. i would absolutely, positively tell the other mom beforehand!

    trying to explain your little one’s (possibly unexpected) reactions or quirky or challenging behaviors as they occur can be nearly impossibly stressful (for everyone involved!). but having laid the groundwork, the other mom is likely to be much more understanding.

    it also gives you the chance to talk to her about what she plans to do or have available for the kids to ensure that there’s something that your little one can participate in comfortably.

    also, in my experience, the thing that my kid needs most is to know what to expect. we usually hone in on one or two things that we know are going to happen in order to ease the anxiety of the unknown. so instead of getting anxious, she can get excited about an activity.

    on the bigger topic, i am all about disclosure and i believe from the bottom of my heart that it is up to each of us to create awareness.

    amy said, ‘I don’t know the answer to your question about notifying the mom about Pudding’s diagnosis but I wanted to say that my hope is that as Aspergers and Autism become more widely known/discussed, that coming out process won’t be as difficult.’

    my question is how do these topics become more widely discussed if WE don’t discuss them? who are we waiting on to do it for us? or for our children? and do we really want to rely on someone else’s experience to tell their stories? so as much as i applaud you for writing the blog (and i do!) i also think that the conversations need to take place in real time with the people in pudding’s world.

    one connection at a time – i believe that’s how we can change the world that our kids inhabit.

    good luck!

    jess

    July 28, 2010 at 10:36 am

  5. I’m with Jess on this one. I’m not about to hang a sign on my son and tell complete strangers, but if we’re having playdates/swim lessons/gymnastics, I NEED the other players to know about his behaviors, especially if I’m not going to be there (not that I would leave him alone for any of those things, but you never know). I’ve found that the more I mention it, the more understanding people are and the more the word gets spread. And by writing about it, sharing with the community and talking about the good and the bad, the more tolerance we can spread.
    (I wrote about this quandry too at http://trydefyinggravity.wordpress.com/2010/07/05/our-lips-are-sealed/ and got some great comments and suggestions.

    good luck with the playdate. You may be pleasantly surprised!
    Alysia

    akbutler

    July 28, 2010 at 1:08 pm

  6. Oh yes, we have to be the ones to say it, I was just feeling the awkwardness of not doing it in person, before we met. I don’t know why it is easier to do it face-to-face on the playground for me. Truth is, Pudding will have nor problems going on the play date, she likes new people, places and things (I know!) she’ll have her problems when it comes time to leave. And while I hope that it will go okay, I really did need to prepare the mother for it. Good news is, she is still up for it. The horrid social isolation of being in a new country where you know nobody- even the work of a play date with us is okay!

    spectrummymummy

    July 28, 2010 at 4:18 pm

  7. […] wasn’t sure Pudding was ready for:  a new friend.  Back when I wrote about their impending play date, I had no expectation that this would happen.  I’m often told by adults (even some of you) […]


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