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Internlised Ableism. Why some children reject their identity.

Internalised Ableism.

I'm often asked about/work with newly identified Autistic young people who reject their identity.

There are several reasons why this happens.

Usually, parents seek a formal identification because something isn't going well for their child, so negativity surrounds it. They naturally attribute all the challenges they face to being autistic rather than understanding that the world is set up for neurotypicals.

They don't want to be seen as different. Especially if they are late identified, they've most likely been masking profusely for a very long time and no doubt and hit burnout. But they've constantly been surrounded by NT peers. They will assume that they are a broken NT … even if they have formal identification. They won't know what that means for them. They will automatically compare themselves to their NT peers.

Inaccurate stereotypes, there is a lot of misunderstanding around what being autistic means… even the diagnostic manuals are outdated! They will rely on harmful stereotypes to inform them. Often they will imagine peers they don't identify with that may have high support needs. I hear "I'm not like those people" often, sadly.

The way the "system" is set up. We are constantly receiving the subtle (and not so subtle) message that disabled means bad. The available support is all based on making our children more NT. Think social skills, Building resilience to cope with sensory trauma etc.

Societal expectations, even from a young age, it's drilled into us that we will go to school, get good grades, go to uni and get a job. If your child is in crisis and unable to attend school, they will feel like they have failed rather than been failed by the system. The pressure put on children is immense, especially around GCSE's. They genuinely believe that if they don't get good GCSE's they have failed at life, some parents even have difficulty letting go of this.

Education can be accessed at any time. What good is a burnt-out child who's experiencing mental health crisis but has 8 grade 9 GCSE's?…. There's no timeline.

All of the above is a huge learning curve, and if your child is struggling, it's probably one they aren't ready for, and that's ok.

Here are some things to consider that might be helpful.

1. Educate yourself as much as possible but make sure that the education comes from reliable sources, i.e., #ActuallyAutistic folx. (see my previous post on parenting courses).

2. Please resist the urge to talk about it. It's hard! Not only is it new for your child, but there's also a wealth of knowledge and experience to tap into from the AA community. It isn't easy to contain. I get it. But confronting a child with it will lead them to reject it further or close down. Instead, think about applying your knowledge to your parenting style and slowly introducing autistic culture into your daily life without actually mentioning the word.

3. Explore your own neurodivergence! We know that autism is genetic. Chances are, one if not both parents will be ND. This will be no surprise for many of you, but for some, exploring your own potential neurodivergence helps them understand their child more and their similarities.

4. Encourage your young person to get in their senses and do it with them! In my house, kitchen disco's are a daily occurrence! Stimming is pure joy…

5. If you can, get your young person an autistic mentor.

For mentoring and 121 work please contact

Hope that helps Much love Tanya

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