“The autistic parent community and the non-autistic (allistic) parent community are standing on two hills, divided by rivers of information and connected by bridges. In both communities, there are bridge-builders, bridge-burners, and people who believe there should be no bridge at all. What we must all keep in mind is that our children are standing on the bridges. If we burn the bridges, the children perish. If we remove the bridge, the children drown. The only real option to save our children is by working together to make those bridges stronger.”
~ Meghan Ashburn and Jules Edwards
Meghan Ashburn is a former teacher who is also a white, allistic mother of four sons, two of whom are twins diagnosed with autism. Jules Edwards is a woman who was diagnosed autistic late-in-life. She is also an ADHD mother of three Black and Ojibwe autistic children. Each mother was well into her journey of seeking knowledge and help from professionals, support groups, reading and research, and other pathways about how best to raise her children when they met. The two could not have been more different culturally and genetically. Unsurprisingly, due to diverging theories and plentiful misinformation, they respectively lived on the two different hills they describe above.
As I read through the pages, chapters, and then to the end of this remarkable book, I felt myself moving right along in learning with the mothers and other diverse individuals contributing their unique situations and perspectives.
Most impressive was the authors’ early recognition and faithful ongoing commitment to listening with respect to the viewpoint of each parent, whether allistic or non-allistic, and others. This important value is impressively prevalent in all discussions of the issues.
There’s so much for each of us to learn. The most important things I learned are that the autistic spectrum is wide and deep. The diverse needs of each individual child doesn’t fit the mold of one-program-fits-all. Heartbreakingly, our present economy and social structure affords more children of privileged parents the access to programs—the first hill—and often places disadvantaged families on the second hill. It’s vital that we seek to work together with all people with respect and kindness.
The book concludes with a thoughtful, detailed chapter about the many ways we can each find a niche to match our skills and time, as well as an excellent multi-page resource list at the end. Indeed, reading this powerful book is a great way for all of us to become a large or small part of the support network needed for autistic parents and autistic children.
“Our goal is to make the world a better place for all autistics, present and future,” Ashburn and Edwards tell us.
May it be so.