We begin this journey into parenting our #HappilyAutistic and #ProudlyPDA little human with…
Understanding is the first step in many, if not most, things in life.
- Problem solving
- Career advancement
- and yes, Parenting too, even neurotypical little humans.
Until you UNDERSTAND a situation, you lack the power to make informed choices.
But what is Understanding?
Actually, knowledge and information is just the beginning of the process.
Definitions of Understanding
1: mental grasp, comprehension
2a: the power of comprehending; especially :the capacity to apprehend general relations of particulars
b: the power to make experience intelligible by applying concepts and categories
3a: friendly or harmonious relationship
b: an agreement of opinion or feeling :adjustment of differences
c: a mutual agreement not formally entered into but in some degree binding on each side
4: explanation, interpretation
- the ability to understand something; comprehension
- the power of abstract thought; intellect
- an individual’s perception or judgement of a situation
- sympathetic awareness or tolerance
- having insight or good judgement
- sympathetically aware of other people’s feelings; tolerant and forgiving
As you can see, understanding is much more complicated than just knowledge or information.
Looking at those definitions, you may notice that they fall into two general categories. The first deals with knowledge, information, and intelligence or as I will call it Mind Understanding. The second is more about relationships and interactions with other or Heart Understanding here. In the context of parenting your neurodivergent little human, both types of understanding are essential.
Yes, you need good information to understand your little human better. Sometimes you get that information through ‘experts’, evaluations/tests, and diagnosis. Other times you get it through your own research: reading, conferences, or other sources. Sometimes it comes from your peers: other parents and #ActuallyAutistic adults. And other times, it comes through observing and listening to your little human. Ideally, mind understanding is mixture of all those elements.
Knowledge alone though will not empower you to parent your child better. You can be the smartest person out there, know the most there is about autism or PDA or any other subject. But unless you then apply that knowledge to your interactions and relationships with your little human, you still lack heart understanding.
This is why understanding is not something that you acquire simply from ‘experts’ or diagnosis or reading book after book on a topic. Understanding is NOT something that another person can give to you. It is something that you must work for and towards. It is a never ending process of seeking information and thoughtful consideration. Yes, I said…never ending.
For now though, let’s break this down into those parts. Beginning with the acquisition of knowledge.
For me the process of mind understanding looks something like this:
The process for understanding any problem begins with research. Finding out about the situation.
We are blessed that in this day and age this is incredibly easy. Almost anything you want to know is on the internet. Free of charge usually. Though if you want to read original scientific papers on a subject you may sometimes need to pay for them…or take the time to request them through your local library.
Even more amazing is that you do not even need to be able to read to access much of the information. With YouTube and podcasts, you can access tons of surprisingly accurate information without reading a single word.
Let’s examine possible sources a bit further.
Observation – Many times it is you, the parent, who first noticed that your little human was ‘different’. It is common for all parents to observe and compare their little human against others. Often times, I hear these words…I just KNEW that my child was different. It is important that you respect and validate this ‘knowing’. That you recognize that other than your little human, you are the greatest expert there is. Speaking of which…
‘Experts’ – Depending upon your situation, you may have several of these, sometimes even with differing agendas or opinions. Teachers and schools may have one view of your little human’s behaviors or challenges while doctors, psychologists, and therapists have others. You may even have social services in the equation. At times, parents feel that they cannot get a straight answer from any of them. Even if or when you get a formal diagnosis, there may still not be agreement about how best to help you and your little human. Sometimes, diagnosis itself is the end of the road for ‘experts’, they have little or nothing to offer other than a label. This leads many parents to look for answers elsewhere…
Books and the internet – There is more information out there than you will ever be able to take in. Honestly, more than most of us even need. It becomes important that you learn how to evaluate all of it too. Using good judgement as the definition says. Looking at the source – Is this a legitimate scientific study? Was the sample size large enough? Was the research team biased? Have the results been duplicated by others? Is it experimental, correlation, data extrapolation or case study? Does it prove causation or correlation? What is the difference?
Peers and online networks – Sometimes, it is not just science and ‘experts’ that are good sources of information. Experience too can be beneficial. Other parents or #ActuallyAutistic adults have as much or perhaps more to bring to the table than ‘experts’. These are called anecdotal evidence. And even science give some credence to them. There are loads of support networks online too. Facebook, Twitter, Yahoo as well as parenting websites and even online groups associated with…
Charities and support groups – Again, you will find more resources than you can utilize. Large national and international organizations, local branches or those, smaller groups specific to individual causes, and local independent groups. These organizations can be a good resource for another option…
Conferences…and teleconferences – Even festivals, celebrations and shows. Ranging from half day, small trainings to multi-day shows that have 100s of exhibitors and speakers and 1000s of participants, there is always something on somewhere. But this option can be an especially costly one…time consuming too. On the other hand, coming together with like-minded individuals can create a buzz…and energy that can renew and invigorate you during the challenging times.
Of course, with all those possible sources of Mind Understanding the issue becomes…Information Overload.
That it is were thoughtful consideration comes into the equation. It is not enough to just research and take in data. Computers can do that. To move to understand you must put thought into that information.
That is where we pick up tomorrow with…