“The Chasm of -isms: Hinduism and Autism Part 2”
Another blogger wrote a post about autism and Easter, the link to which I have posted below. When I read it, I was nodding, Yes, my darling fellow mother, I do know. She writes about the day being fraught with behavior issues and anxiety from the moment of their abrupt awakening (which, even if it is a daily occurrence, is still startling and does not feel healthy, in my experience); the way one thing being different at the place of worship can set your child’s teeth on edge; the strain of making it through the ceremony; and the shame of not experiencing a connection to the joy and how meaningfully different the festival is supposed to feel to the faithful.
The way it used to feel. When we were our old selves.
I have felt this way about every festival for so long, it is not worth counting how long.
Where does the chasm lie, though? I no longer accept the shame that used to overwhelm me—that I was not devout enough, not living according to the Gita enough, not practicing enough mindfulness, not grateful enough, not reading the scriptures a certain way enough. All these have been said to me repeatedly. Goodbye to the backpack of shame. I have symbolically cast its ashes into the Ganga.
No. I have birthed myself into the person who could gather the strength to step up to the responsibilities that come with autism parenting. And I should never have had to do it by stepping so far away from my faith community.
With all the loss, though, I have also gained. I can articulate insights that I couldn’t see clearly before because the path to them was blocked by internalized blame:
-People shouldn’t preach as if they are sadhus anymore. It is very common in desi interactions, and is worse than useless. I am sick of humoring it, and now zone out completely when it happens around me. Lecturing someone who is dealing with something huge is absolving yourself. Isn’t it easier to tell me to conjure up my inner Jagat Janani than to see how you and others can be more inclusive? You (general you) should be asking me (and people like me) what resources you can turn to for guidance. And then using those resources to birth a better collective.
-If the answer to my path being so complex is to exhort me to turn more inward than I have already, why should I think of you as my tribe?
-“The problem is not the teachings, but the flaws in the practitioners of the faith.” I already know that. What shall we do about it? I have concrete, goal oriented thoughts. Ask me.
-Inner spiritual practice being so separate from communal celebrations is not okay. The discord for autism families is hugely magnified. It is an actual shock to step out into the world and see how much people expect us to manage and suppress normal autism behaviors and sounds. No one can function that discordantly in public and still maintain any trust in neurotypical world. We see your kids whispering and laughing and excluding our child, by the way. Please parent better. And thank you to those people and their kids we have encountered who have been the pleasant exceptions. We love you so much right back.
-The only way real autism, as opposed to abstract notions of it, can be fully normalized and welcomed into the public sphere is to just keep normalizing it. Welcome the sounds. Learn to communicate with a severely autistic, nonverbal person without being weirded out, without infantilizing them, and without getting annoyed because your expectation of a Spiritual Cone of Silence was broken.
And if you cannot? Maybe you should be more devout. Practice better mindfulness. Read the scriptures differently.