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[personal profile] msagara
When I started writing these posts well over a year ago, I had two things in mind.

First, I wanted to write about how my ASD son and elementary school. I wanted to talk about how the environment was safe, and the efforts required to make it safe for him. The efforts are not small, and they're not about punishment. If the environment does not feel safe for almost all of the children in it - including those who bully - it frequently fails.

It's vastly easier to make the household a safe environment. It involves far fewer people, and far fewer cultural contexts.

Second, I wanted to write about my own experiences with an ASD child, because I know a lot of people out there are facing some of the same difficulties, and they often feel isolated. By putting these posts up, I wanted to let people know, for a few minutes at a time, that they were not alone.

What I did not expect was that people who don't have - and don't want - children would find them interesting. I did not expect that people who are like my son would find them interesting; that these articles - which are written from my perspective as a parent - would speak to their experiences as someone on the spectrum. As all unexpected gifts, this makes me happy.

However: I want to make a couple of things clear.

Advice about parenting is tricky. In some ways it's like advice about writing. No two children are alike. No two books are alike. The process to raise a child or write a book are both therefore unique. Is there overlap? Yes, because we're all people. We have a lot in common, especially when it comes to our fears and worries.

There is nothing more irritating than the theoretically well-meaning person who walks up to you out of the blue to give you advice on parenting--frequently because you are, in their opinion, doing it wrong. Reading books on parenting isn't the same: that's advice that you've sought out, and the entire experience is between you and the page; you can look for the elements that resonate with your experiences, and you can pick and choose the elements that work for you. It's the same with writing advice: you can pick and choose.

The internet walks a line between these two things: random advice given by strangers, and the advice you seek when you go looking for it.

In the past week, I've seen people beating themselves up because they've come across a few 'how-to-write' advice posts. These posts are great and they have a lot of information in them that's entirely individual - but writers see them and feel deflated. They feel unproductive, or lazy, or incompetent. Which is pretty unhelpful, all round.

In the past several years, I've seen similar - but more intense - reactions to parenting posts and how-tos.

I wanted to make clear, then, that these posts are not meant to be advice in the traditional sense. You are not me, and the things that you will find sensible and comfortable will of course be coming out of your own space and your own experience. They will come out of your house, your work, your extended family and your support network - or your lack of support network.

Which is to say: Your son is not my son and you are not me. The very last thing I want as a take-away from these posts is to make you somehow feel like you're doing it wrong, or that I'm criticizing you. It's hard enough to parent on some days without also beating yourself up; we all have days where we beat ourselves up over things we think, in retrospect, we should have done differently. I don’t want to inadvertently become one of the clubs by which other parents do this to themselves.

Also: if anyone has any questions about anything I've written, ask them here, and I'll try to answer them. If you don't want to ask them with identifiers, ask them anonymously, or ask them in email.
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Michelle Sagara

April 2015

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