The Full Spectrum: ‘I Live With The Nagging Feeling That I’m Being Judged’

By  | 

The Full Spectrum focuses on the trials and tribulations of raising a child who ranks on the autism spectrum.

As the mother of an 8-year-old son with Aspergers Syndrome, ADHD and Developmental Coordination Disorder (which is kind of like a chronic clumsiness), I live with the nagging feeling that I’m being judged, that friends and family, no matter how well intentioned, view many of S.’s challenges as a direct result of my parenting (or lack thereof).

At the moment, there is a controversy currently raging online at The New York Times regarding Bryan Caplan’s new book, Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids, and his bold assertion that nature trumps nurture. (Caplan looks to scientific research on twins and adoption.) Pundits and mothers alike are appalled at the idea that as parents, we cannot completely influence who or what our children are or will turn out to be.

According to Caplan, no matter how many tutors, music lessons, book readings, private schools, play dates or educational toys we expose our kids to, their fate and disposition are predetermined from the moment of conception. It’s scary stuff for most parents — but not for me.

It’s something I live with every day. In fact, my own mother has been quietly (and not so quietly) chastising me from the sidelines since the moment S. was born about my lack of discipline and consistency.

You can’t really blame her for thinking that way. With bestselling books like Amy Chua’s The Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother (No. 1 on Amazon’s bestselling list of biographies) and Thomas Phelan’s 1-2-3 Magic (No. 6 on Amazon’s parenting bestsellers) the message is loud and clear: “good” parents assert control over their child’s will and, in return, get a well behaved child.

The problem for me is that I don’t have a typical child — or neurotypical, as they say in the Aspie world — and so traditional parenting methods and time outs recommended by the “experts” simply don’t work (never have, never will). Messages like those found in Chua and Phelan’s books just reinforce my paranoia about what people are really thinking: that S. doesn’t have Aspergers, he just has bad parents. (And, let’s be honest, it isn’t really bad parents so much as bad mother because we all know who runs the show in most households.)

Most of the people leaving comments on the New York Times site about Caplan’s book are clinging to the notion that we, as parents, are the ultimate influencers of our kids and their behaviour — even in the face of scientific research. Strangely, these are the same types who went ballistic over Chua’s overly controlling approach to parenting. (I guess they want to be benevolent dictators.)

While parents would like to believe that they are the direct cause of their kids’ triumphs and tragedies, I for one am championing Caplan’s new book and the idea that sometimes difficult and gifted children are just born that way.

(Photo: Creatas Images)