Today I’m tackling a hot button issue… We’re going to talk about the term “Autism Mom”.
And whether you read the title of this post and thought “hey that’s me!” or you read the title and cringed at the thought of “Autism Moms”, stick with me because this post is for you.
If you haven’t already heard, Autism Mom is a term that parents of autistic children have started to use or do use to find their community.
Some people love it and see autism mom as their identity, others hate autism mom and think that it’s offensive. And in this post I’m going to unpack it a bit.
(Prefer video? This post is available in video format below)
3 Reasons “Autism Mom” Is More Harmful Than You Think
But before I dive in, I want to say that if you’re reading this and you use the term autism mom as an identifier for yourself or to search for autism Facebook groups, or blog posts or any of that stuff… I get it.
I get why you hear that term and you think, oh my gosh, that is me.
As moms, it’s pretty typical for us to find some way to identify ourselves.
You probably heard about soccer moms or boy moms or dance moms.
We use these terms to find our group, to find the other moms who are going to understand us and understand what we’re going through in a way that others just don’t.
An example of this… My kids don’t do any sports, but a good good friend of mine, her kids do all the sports. And I just can’t relate to that.
She talks about driving for five hours for some tournament and spending all of this time on the field, and she wants one of these chairs that has an umbrella attached to the chair.
I can empathize, but I can’t truly understand, because I don’t live that life.
But using “autism mom” is actually very different from something like soccer mom or dance mom… In fact, using this term might find the exact community you’re trying to avoid (check out reason #2!)
So I’m going to share three reasons to reconsider using autism mom as an identifier, even if you don’t see the harm in it.
#1 Autism Is More Than Soccer
The first reason not to identify as an autism mom is that autism is more than something like soccer or dance.
Autism is our culture. It’s our identity. It’s who we are.
It is not who our parents are.
And it’s not something that that defines anyone except for us.
To give an example of this, one of my children is non-binary.
In no circumstance what I call myself a non-binary mom, because I’m not non-binary, I’m cis.
So I would not in a million years say that I’m a non-binary mom.
Another example of this is I have a friend who is white. She has adopted a black daughter.
And never in a million years, would she say she’s a black mom. She’s not she’s a white mom of a black daughter.
And it’s completely okay for her to seek out community with people who have similar experiences, but she wouldn’t use ‘black mom’ to find that community.
Bottom line: autism is our identity, our culture, and it’s not something trivial like soccer or dance, and it isn’t something to be used as an identity by others outside of our community.
#2 It Groups You With the “Warrior Mom” Stereotype
Whether you mean it this way or you don’t, using autism mom as your identifier groups you in with the autism warrior moms.
Those moms who are on the internet crying in their car because autism ruined their life.
Those moms that are covered head to toe in puzzle pieces.
Those moms saying “I’m an autism mom, and I’m a superhero because I love my autistic child”
That’s who you’re grouped in with when you continue to use “autism mom” as an identifier after learning how autistics feel about it.
And if you’ve read anything from my blog, you know I’m not about that… And I’m willing to bet that you aren’t that way either.
I’m betting that if you’re reading this and you’ve been using autism mom as an identifier, it’s because you saw autism as a positive part of your family and wanted to find others who thought the same.
But unfortunately, in this culture, if you’re using autism Mom, you’re mostly not going to find the people who agree with you.
You’re going to find the people who think that autistics should sit down and stop talking, who think that neurodiversity is junk.
Those are the kind of moms that you’re going to get grouped in with if you use autism mom as an identity, and I don’t want that for you.
#3 Impact Over Intent
The third reason not to identify as an autism mom is understanding that impact is more important than intent.
Because like I said, if you’re reading this post or if you’re a part of the Embracing Autism Community or Autism Journey Collective, I know that you aren’t one of “those moms”.
I know that you aren’t trying to harm anyone, and that you don’t mean autism mom in a negative ‘I’m a superhero’ way at all.
However the autistic community has pretty clearly an overwhelmingly said that this hurts us. That it hurts us when parents call themselves autism moms.
And whenever a minority group—a group that’s discriminated against on the daily—says, “hey, that thing that you’re doing that hurts us”…
The simplest thing that we can do is stop.
Your intent behind using autism mom is not to hurt autistics. That’s not what you mean to do.
And I know that, 100%, but in this case the impact to the autistic community needs to be prioritized over the intent of parents of autistic children.
The impact is simply more important. And the impact here is that it hurts autistic people. And I don’t think you want to be a part of that.
And so I’m not saying that if you’ve used autism mom up until now, you’re terrible.
But here’s the thing: when you know better, you can do better.
And so I’m here explaining why autism mom is harmful and why it’s not a good idea for parents to use that as an identifier.
And now you know better.
You may not know why it bothers us so much, but you do know it bothers us.
And now that you know that, how simple is it to just not use it?
And here’s the deal… If you continue using autism mom, that’s hurting autistics. Whether you think we’re overreacting or not, it does hurt us.
But if you stop using autism mom as a title, stop putting it on T shirts, stop putting it on bumper stickers…
When you stop doing that, it stops hurting autistics. And it doesn’t hurt you at all.
You’re not harmed in any way, shape or form by not using autism mom, but it makes a massive, massive difference for autistics.
It seems like a simple decision, right?
And here’s why I’m sharing this all with you… I believe to my core that we are working together on a mission to change the world for autistic people.
And we can’t do that without the parents of autistic children joining with us, amplifying autistic voices, and becoming allies.
That’s why I do what I do… Because I feel like most parents of autistic children want to be the allies that the autistic community needs.
I believe that you want to learn from the autistic community. That you want to parent your autistic children in the most respectful way possible. That you’re ready to put aside your privilege and use it to ally with autistics.
And sometimes you just need to know exactly what to do.
So I’m telling you, the very first step you can take is to let go of the autism mom title.
It doesn’t hurt you at all, but it massively helps the autistic community, and it shows us that you’re ready to ally with us.
And being an ally can feel intimidating, but it can truly be this simple: when autistics say ‘that harms us’, stop doing it.
If you loved this post, you should check out:
Thank you for educating me. I had no idea it wasn’t appropriate to use the term Autism Mom but now I do and I will do better for my child who has autism and everyone else in the community. ❤️
This is very informative and I appreciate it full heartedly! My son was recently diagnosed and I have been struggling finding ways to bring awareness that is full of love and support without getting back lash for. My son and I have learned the history of the puzzle piece but he still likes it bc of the meaning the puzzle has for our family, it pieces us together with all the colors, as he says. My question is then, what can I do? What is or isn’t ok? That has been the biggest struggle since the diagnosis and have gotten a lot of hurtful responses.
In that case, I would use the puzzle piece privately in your own home. But I wouldn’t use it in public as it is widely considered a hate symbol by the autistic community.
What a loaded article. You begin it with suggestions it’s okay, only to turn around and tell those people they are wrong.
And how are you telling them they are wrong? Strawman arguments.
“Autism is more than soccer”? Well no shit, but NO ONE said it was.
This whole thing is gatekeeping a goddamn disorder and it is GROSS. And you make this apparent when you say “autism is our culture”. Gross. It is not a culture. HOW is it a culture? Jesus, autism is more like soccer than it is a “culture”.
If autism is your identity and culture, then you need to widen your world. Get a hobby. My autism isn’t my identity, it’s the least interesting thing about me. I am more than my disorder and it’s gross when you and others enable that sort of thinking. That *this* is what they hang their entire being on. And I say this as a 40 year old autistic who was officially diagnosed decades ago, and had that diagnosis reconfirmed 10 years ago for social security reasons. So you can’t pull the “you’re not autistic” card. I am. In fact, so many people yelling about others using “autism moms” tend to be self-diagnosed. “Diagnosis is a privilege!!” says the peanut gallery, because what a surprise, that statement fits their narrative. You want to talk about culture and identity? What about the OVERT ableism in claiming someone else’s disability as your own. And then having the gall to yell at others about it?
You bring up the “black mom” point. You think it’s fine for Rachel Dolezal to say she is black because she “self-diagnosed” as it were? She decided she was. However she justified coming about it, this was how she was. That’s what self-diagnosed autistic people are doing. But I’m sure that is fine with you, right? Because those kinds of people visit your site, pat you on the back, inflate your “autism culture” bubble.
“But unfortunately, in this culture, if you’re using autism Mom, you’re mostly not going to find the people who agree with you.”
This is condescending as allllllll fuck. Give them some agency, please. Let’s assume they can decide who they wish to talk to. So insulting about other people in an article that purported to understand them at the start…
“The third reason not to identify as an autism mom is understanding that impact is more important than intent.”
Ah, here we go. I refer you back to my previous self-diagnosed autistic people. IMPACT OVER INTENT. People who decide they are autistic, then loudly yell about it, have an impact. It becomes what others see us. How they treat us. Their intent to fit in with a community for whatever reason matters less than their impact. But, again. “Privilege” apparently.
“However the autistic community has pretty clearly an overwhelmingly said that this hurts us. That it hurts us when parents call themselves autism moms. And whenever a minority group—a group that’s discriminated against on the daily—says, “hey, that thing that you’re doing that hurts us”…”
OH THE IRONY. It physically pains. The autistic community has also made it overwhelmingly clear that self-diagnosed people banging into OUR space and loudly taking it over hurts us. But of course, we are silenced by the majority. And oh look who the majority now happen to be…
Autism has been co-opted by people like you who want to make a disability into a culture. Into a club. “Oh look, she played with Lego, how did we not know she was autistic!!” And where autistic people who can’t leave the house, who are selectively mute, are concerned? You be quiet, it’s about *US* now. You’re not part of culture.
You people who want to make your autism all you are, of course you behave like this and gatekeep it. I’ve seen it for years, and I’ll see it until I’m dead. It is unhelpful. Be better.
Autism Moms aren’t self-diagnosing…? Autism Moms are mothers of Autistic children who victimize themselves because of their children’s disorders and think that they’re superheroes just for loving their children. That’s what this entire article is about.