But you look so normal

25 06 2014

There are probably hundreds of blogs with that title on the net today. It’s something many people with an unseen disability have been told. My response is usually ‘I am normal’ , even although my disability is one that highlights how abnormal I am, or how abnormal I should be just to appease society.

It’s no secret that I have autism. The shell looks fine if a little rotund, the inner workings are somewhat wonkily wired. I’ve often joked that to be a convincing autistic I need to rock back and forth and talk incessantly about trains or numbers. People would be more comfortable with me fitting that stereotype, one where I can garner sympathy, but I don’t. I can articulate rather well, I can even successfully take part in small talk and social chat. I have thousands of acquaintances. Socially I do ok. I am a strong independent person, even if I can’t cook. You will never see what’s going on under the surface to get me to that level of interaction. I look just like you. Normal.

You, who can socialise instinctively. Normal. You, who knows the cues to talk or shut up. Normal. You, who pick up on more subtle forms of communication such as body language or facial expression. Normal. You , who is unlikely to struggle with sensory overload or processing basic information. Normal. You, who probably doesn’t become catatonic at the sound of sirens. (There you go Lex Luther, there’s my weakness) Normal.

But you struggle to read me in the same way I struggle to read you and because you are in the majority, it’s expected I will change to fit in with you. In fact, autism is a developmental disability, I am expected to ‘develop’ my skills and understanding to become normal. Some people make a fortune out of trying to get people like me to develop normal skills so I can pretend I am normal to be like you.

Well you know what? I’m really fucking successful at doing normal. Too successful. I have to convince people of my disability. I have to persistently justify my struggles (or symptoms if you prefer such language), even to people who have known me all my life. They say, “but you’re just you, I don’t care what they label you, you’re still the same to me” and in this statement those who claim to accept me refuse to learn about how my brain works, what my struggles are, or how they could help me overcome them. They silence me with their questioning, ‘what is normal anyway?’ Immediately followed by telling me I should try to understand that I’m different and I can’t expect normal people to understand. If this is acceptance then I don’t get it.

And if I struggle to justify how my brain works to those who know me best, what chance have I got of convincing those who don’t know me that I need help and support or understanding? If my disability was visible, if I hadn’t learned not to stim or hide being ‘symptomatic’ (there I go again with that medical language) I don’t think I’d have to justify myself over and over again. I’m definitely not saying those with visible disabilities don’t have problems with justification, hell I’ve read about ATOS and the WCA, but if someone can see the problem they’re more likely to try and understand it. It’s easier to try to imagine mobility issues than it is an entirely different way of processing and thinking. Physical disability is visibly justified, it makes sense to them that there could be difficulties or support needs. When you look just like them and can pretend on the whole to act just like them, when you finally get the courage to say ‘I need help’, you’re met with ‘prove it’ and if I try to prove it, I’m made to feel like a fraud or a con-artist. Only then to be told, ‘prove it more’.

I shouldn’t be made to feel like I’m faking it just because someone else struggles or refuses to understand. Why should I have to fit in with your world? Why can’t you try to fit in with mine? I do look normal. I am normal. Like any normal person I have struggles and sometimes these require me to ask for help. How I appear on the outside shouldn’t define what I need or get.





The Yummy Mummy’s guide to coping with ‘Weird Parents’

30 05 2012

We’ve all seen them out with their children, the “Weird Parents”.

black metal parents

Beware of Weirdo Parents

They don’t quite look “Normal” like us.  They wear bright, patchwork hippy clothes or rock band t-shirts in obligatory black. They probably even shop in charity shops, that is if they buy their clothes at all, they probably steal from charities. The “Weird Parents” have strangely coloured hair with wild hairstyles, tattoos  or facial piercings. They are just not normal and this is not acceptable in our society in 2012.

Hippy Parents

Hippy Parents are Weird Parents

If we’re honest we’re probably surprised that they don’t melt in daylight either due to their vampire genes or just plain shame at the state of their appearance. How they even have the gall to leave the house in that state is beyond us. Do they even have mirrors in their home?  You would never see us looking so alternative. Even the Slummy Mummies manage to fit in to our idea of acceptable, of sorts.

Yummy Mummys

This is far more acceptable

It’s embarrassing having to pass such socially unacceptable types in the street, let alone have to share a school or nursery entrance with them. Where are we expected to look when they pass us in the street? How dare they exist to make us Yummy Mummies feel uncomfortable in our own towns. What are we ‘normals’ expected to do when they smile and try to make small talk with us as if they are equals? We all know they are actually sizing us up as main course for their next meal. Do we feign ignorance of their intended fates for us and carry on, or do we run screaming?

No! Of course not.

The best course of action with such “Weird Parents” is to ostracise them. Ignore them. Form groups of friends and exclude them. Don’t inform them of anything going on in the wider community and whatever you do, don’t let them know, you know, they exist.

If for some strange reason, avoiding a “Weird Parent” gives you a fleeting emotion called guilt, a quick smirk without any eye contact or speaking should suffice. Be warned though, they could take this to be social acceptance and try to befriend you.

ProTip:Practice smirking vs smiling in the mirror, so you can be sure you’re offering the correct expression to the “Weird Parent” and not inviting further communication.

And for added safety, how about refusing to let your cherubs play with their offspring? That should show them once and for all how we feel?

We don’t want our little cherubs mixing with the offspring of “Weird Parents”. Think of the damage that could do to little Lilli-Mae and Oliver. Rumour has it the offspring of the “Weird Parents” can be intelligent. That’s good, it means as our cherubs grow up they too will learn to ostracise the “Weird Offspring”. We can’t have them mixing with someone who is so different to them socially, intellectually and genetically.

Did you know “Weird Parents” can have their offspring toilet trained by 2 years old, and who can read and count by 30 months? One “weird parent” had their  32 month old child learning to speak in French too. Isn’t it disgusting. I bet they never let their child watch Peppa Pig or In the Night Garden even once.  It’s like they’re trying to breed intelligent children, deliberately to agitate us. Many of these “Weird Parents” are academics themselves, they have grown up from “Weird Offspring” via multiple university degrees to “Weird Parents” and are prolonging the agony of their genetic line.

ProTip: University is expensive. Ensure your cherub is not likely to become intelligent. It will only cost you money in the long run and that means fewer Mulberry bags for you!

We don’t really want intelligent children. No! We want to have popular children who fit in. Just imagine if our children caught an intelligent bug and turned into “Weird Offspring” themselves. That would never do! The shame it would bring on the family and the entire street would be too much to bear.

It’s important to let your cherubs hear you criticise the “Weird Family”. You must indoctrinate your cherubs into the ways of “Normal” and “Conformity” early on. They will be able to surreptitiously pass on this information to their peers, their teachers, other Normal Parents and more importantly,  the “Weird Family”.

There is a proverb (from Google just so you don’t worry I’m going all intelligent on you), “Children and Drunks speak the truth”, no one will frown upon the criticism, if it comes from your Popular Child, they will just think it cute.

ProTip: There is no need for truth in your criticism, the less honest the more likely it is to become social fact. Always say something damning and hurtful about the “Weird Family” as it is likely to stick with them for life and your cherub is more likely to remember to say it in their company, or that of others.

Rumour has it, “Weird Parents” aren’t always married. Can you even imagine? Can you contemplate that in 2012 people are having a family without having been married first? They shouldn’t even be having sexual relations. We know from social studies among school gate mothers, that these types would eat their own offspring too, if given half a chance.

We all know what these unmarried co-habiting types are like. They’ll try to steal your husbands, even the men. Especially the men. They’re probably unmarried because they’re gay or rampant swingers. And looking at the “Weird Mum” we can totally understand why “Weird Dad” wouldn’t want to get married to her anyway. If we were men she’d turn us gay too.

ProTip: Swinging parties are only for legitimate married couples. Never invite a co-habiting couple to one of your swinging parties (or any other social gathering) for they are guaranteed to be “Weird Parents” (even if they do not appear so on the surface) and will destroy your marriage, your lives and more importantly your social status.

“Weird Dad” has a strange sexual attraction. He’d scrub up well as a Normal if he just wore a pastel polo shirt and highly patterned surfers shorts a bit too tight for his build. We’re sure it’s the “Weird Mum’s” negative influence that makes him the way he is. “Weird Mum” is a woman of questionable morals, a manipulator. She forces her partner to be weird. She will do the same to you and your family if you let her.

We tend to think of “Weird Dad” as a bit of a novelty. We can change him, turn him into a “Normal Dad”. Tattoos on men are acceptable anyway. It’s always worth your while being nice to “Weird Dad” in case he can be turned. Fantacising about “Weird Dad” is also acceptable, his unconventionality could be seen as cute in a sordid in our mind only affair BUT DO NOT GIVE IN TO HIS WILY CHARMS, don’t forget he is still a”Weird Parent”.

ProTip: Never trust a seemingly changed “Weird Parent”.  “Weird Parents” may attempt to change to Normal but they will always be weird under the surface. It is in their genes. It never goes away.

Don’t forget to keep an eye open for your local “Weird Parents” when out and about so you can actively avoid them and condemn them in your social circle. These “Weird Families” aren’t “Normal” like we are so they don’t mind you talking about them in a negative manner within earshot. Indeed they expect it and enjoy us doing so. It leaves them feeling as if we are accepting them and allowing them into our social circle somehow.

This was the first part of The Yummy Mummy’s Guide to coping with “Weird Parents”. Further tongue purely in cheek installments to come. If you take any of this seriously then you’re in danger of being a “Normal”.