Welcome to the last anniversary interview where I interview loved ones about my Autism diagnosis! To read more about why I’m doing the interviews, check out the first interview (linked below).
The interviews will be with: (link opens in new tab)
1) New friends: Anniversary Interview 1: New Friends
2) A high school friend: Anniversary Interview 2: High School Friend
3) My wife: Anniversary Interview 3: My Wife
4) My parents
Then, I will share my reflections on the experience. Enjoy!
Note: These are all people who have been actively trying to learn about Autistic people and how to better interact with and support us. Please be understanding and forgiving of anything like using person-first language (“person with autism”), using functioning labels, or anything of that nature. All of those being interviewed are being gracious enough to agree to put themselves in a vulnerable situation, and I really appreciate that. Thanks!
Anniversary Interview: Mom and Dad
1) What were some of your initial thoughts when I came to you about the possibility that I might be Autistic?
Dad: Well, my first reaction to the notion was “Huh?” My only personal experience was with children, and most of them were very “low-functioning” boys with “classic” (that is to say, stereotypical) behaviors. The “highest functioning” high school boys I knew were still largely non-verbal, avoided eye contact, acted out if they didn’t get what they wanted. Not knowing how autism is often manifest in women, I’m afraid I was kind of dismissive because I didn’t see the stereotypical behaviors I had (wrongly) come to associate with autism.
Mom: My first reaction was, “What?” I mean, Dad’s describing experiences with my students and children from church. I know a lot about autism, but in retrospect, it’s mainly with autism that creates very diverse and multiple learning needs, including large communication challenges. Autism is a spectrum, but I had predominantly studied the more challenging end of the spectrum.
2) Is there anything you would have done differently as a parent had you known?
Dad: This is a difficult question to answer. I admire who you are as a young woman, your many insights and talents, ability to articulate your thoughts, your witty banter. So, is this who you would be today if we had raised you differently? I think we went to bat for you at school when we knew about issues, but you kept your experiences of middle-school bullying so private that we didn’t know until you were in college.
Mom and Dad: Maybe we would have found a different way for your piano lessons so they would have engaged you more appropriately/deeply, or would have understood that horseback riding was more like therapeutic riding to you and not just considered it a hobby.
Mom: You always had such unique needs anyway, due to your dietary difficulties, that I think we pretty much dealt with whatever presented itself. There may have been things that went on internally, but you rarely shared inklings of those things.
3) Looking back at me in my younger years, what kinds of things make more sense to you now?
Dad: You may have a different perspective on this than we do, but we tried to raise our children to lead their own best lives, to speak their minds, to develop their interests and talents as they emerged. We took you to soccer as long as you were interested, not because we dreamed of you being a pro-soccer player.
We didn’t have plans for you to be a straight-A student, or grow up to be a doctor, or a lawyer, or a pastor, or a teacher. So we always tried to engage the “you” that was presenting at the time, not some artificial expectation of a “you” we had in our own imaginations. For example, you were frequently around hundreds of people (at church, etc.) and we let you engage — or not — as you wished.
Mom: We’ve always raised our kids to be their individual selves, so any journey of self-discovery is great!
Mom and Dad: Since we were taking our cues from you, we’re not entirely sure that knowing about your diagnosis sheds any more light on things. At least, we don’t have any memories of thinking, “Why is she doing that?!” that knowing about autism helps us understand in hindsight.
Dad: Maybe I wouldn’t have insisted so much on giving goodbye hugs and kisses to grandparents if I’d known how uncomfortable they made you.
Mom: I wouldn’t have insisted on those anyway. I’m an introvert, so I understand personal space and value quiet or less chaotic environments.
4) What kind of positive changes have you seen in me in the last year? How have I grown or changed?
Dad: The more you learn about yourself (not only regarding autism but also ADD) the more comfortable you appear to be in your own skin, if I can put it that way. You understand (and own) that your needs are valid and are perhaps your own best advocate for them, such as wearing noise cancelling headphones in noisy public settings regardless of what others might think. That’s really great!
Mom: It seems like you have fewer fibro[myalgia flare] days, and this may be because of paying attention to your sensory needs and knowing to take breaks when you need to.
Dad: Yeah. You continue to push yourself, but now understand the importance of respecting your internal pacing rather than trying to please some external measure of success.
5) What do you think about Seeking Sara? What kinds of things are still unclear to you? What would you like me to write about in the future?
Mom and Dad: I think we’re both really proud of your blog. It’s quite an ambitious undertaking, and it’s been great to see not only your personal growth in self-awareness but also the number of others who are gaining insights into their (or their children’s) lives.
Dad: I’m probably biased, but many blogs seem to be rather shallow (“This is what I’m wearing/eating/doing today…”) but Seeking Sara has real depth to it.
Mom: We’re wondering if there are things you think we could have done differently for you in your childhood if we had known.
Dad: I would like to read more about how music affects you, and if there are ways you use music to accomplish certain tasks that you would find otherwise difficult. For example, if you get anxious before a doctor’s visit, are there certain types of music you listen to that help you center and stay calm? If you become fearful on a long car ride, does music help you address the fear (not just help pass the time)? I’m also curious about the observed connection between autism and the microbiome/GI issues, but I don’t know enough about this to frame any specific questions.
Mom: I’d also like to know more about how autism gets diagnosed outside of a school setting, because that’s all I’m familiar with.
A huge thanks to my parents for being so brave and open-minded when doing this interview. I love you guys!
A massive thanks to all the people who agreed to be in the spotlight. You guys rock!
And lastly, a big thanks to everyone who read the interviews!
[image description: A picture of blue flowers with a big white rectangle placed on top of it. Text on a blue box reads, “Interviewing My Parents About My Autistic Self.” The words “Parents” are written in blue while the rest is written in white.]