Image is a staircase perspective by taken from wikipedia
I am so very grateful to have met so many adults in the FASD community and for how openly they share their perspectives. I was chatting with R.J. Formanek about fitting in vs standing out. I get pretty passionate about respecting neurodiversity and not forcing people into molds. R.J. reminded me that “sometimes remaining invisible is a good way to avoid things. Bad things, such as stigma and judgement” He goes on to say that being invisible “can also cut you off from good things like sharing and love.” R.J. told me “In the end, I enjoy having the ability to either fit in, or stand out. Not many people are lucky enough to have that 'ability'.”
Looking at Little Man’s ability to “pass” as neurotypical in some environments as a strength seems completely foreign to me but I respect R.J. and the other adults I have connected with so I need to really spend some time with this perspective. I value these folks not only for the window they give me into Little Man’s perspective but also for their combined experience and accomplishments. These are some pretty awesome people, ones I am proud to call friends, so to dismiss their voices or perspective would be not only short sighted and rude but, well, arrogant. (Boy looking into the face of your own ableism is not pretty)
My first impulse is to counter with how much better it would be if we could change the world so no one felt the need to cultivate invisibility or blending in as a strength, but that is just defending my perspective. I say all the time – I can’t know what it is to be neurodiverse – I’m just not. I’m about as neruodamntypical as you get. So if I can’t know the other perspective without asking – well then I need to really listen when I hear it right?
I want to chat about this more, with R.J. and with others, neruodiverse and neurotypical. I really do believe the ability to enjoy or appreciate standing out and being unique comes from seeing difference being valued by others. If kids / people do not see others in their lives (especially people in “authority” like teachers, parents, other popular figures) value their differences then where will they learn it from? What upset me in my son’s IEP meeting was definitely not simply that someone commented that my son has the ability to "blend" but the feeling I got that it was expected he should - that not blending was not ok. I don't want him internalizing that message. I don’t think it is healthy. I want him to feel valued and appreciated just as much when he doesn't blend in as when he does - so he can feel good about making either choice for himself. Does that make sense?
But, clearly, I have some work still to do on me. It may just be my bias – my perspective - that the need to value difference is so very important that made me read more into a comment than was really there. That belief is so strong for me I was ready to gloss over R.J.’s words without really spending some time with them at first and that is not ok. Besides - respecting my son, the person he is, means someday respecting if he chooses to “pass”. After all that would be HIS choice to make right?