autism mental health pda self-care Feb 06, 2024

Originally published Apr. 26th, 2023. Written by Amanda Diekman.


1.) I drop personal care tasks.

Many of you worry because your children don't shower, don't wear deoderant, don't brush their teeth, don't change their clothes. You may look to me as a sign that your children will eventually learn to do it because I'm a fully functioning adult, right? Yup, I am. But I still find all those personal care tasks really hard, often too hard. These tasks are morally neutral. Wearing different clothes every day is not a badge of success. I wear the same clothes for many days in a row. I go a week without bathing. My body often has a smell. I can't brush my teeth in the evenings. I drop these expectations for myself.


2.) I once went a decade without going to the dentist.

I find the dentist to be sensory HELL. It is unbelievably triggering to me. I will start shaking just thinking about it. Going with my children to their appointments can be too much for me. When no one was forcing me to do it, I dropped it. I could not go. It was too hard. This may seem shocking, but in my own calculation, it was not worth the cost to me. I am allowed to make this call and drop an aspect of life that is deeply threatening to my wellbeing.


3.) I use my incredibly vibrant imagination.

The things happening inside my head often feel more real to me than the things all around. My imagination is so alive and vibrant to me that if I am pretending to be a character, I become that person (in my mind). I have created an imaginary nurse who bustles around and takes care of me when I am sick. I become an ailing woman at a seaside convalescent center 100 years ago. My dishwasher, washing machine, and robo-vacuum all have personalities, and we carry on long conversations while we are working together.


4.) I tell my husband the same stories over and over.

I have a need to share things that I am excited about over and over. I will tell him, "I know I told you about this already, but can I say it all again?" I don't expect him to generate the same enthusiasm after multiple retellings, though he often does, kind soul that he is. But I need to say it. Rather than suppressing that need or shaming myself, I embrace it, share it openly, and happily share the same information over and over. If I can't tell him the story multiple times, I will text multiple friends and share the same information, so that the need still gets met.


Take that, Ableism.


Ableism says there's one best way to be a human, and that human is universally capable, productive, and independent. Internalized ableism is the process of absorbing this message, leading to shame and masking. We hide our struggles and our accommodations for fear of what an ableist culture will say about it if they find out. Better to present a cripplingly painful neurotypical mask than to be honest about what's too hard and the ways we need to accommodate ourselves. I am seeking another way. I am seeking freedom from this old pattern in my life. In honoring our accommodations, the things we drop, we honor ourselves.

Many of the things that parents feel they need to teach their children to manage when they are young are things I still can't manage as an adult. Dropping demands is more than letting go because it's too hard right now. Dropping demands is radically accommodating your child so they can learn to do this for themselves as they grow older. Dropping demands is saying "no!" to an ableist culture that would try to shame your child for their inability to do it all and play their part. In your home, you get to cultivate an anti-ableist, anti-shaming posture of deep love and acceptance. You teach your child what it feels like to live without a mask, to love themselves just as they are.

Why is everything so hard?


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