Am I normal?
If I were to ask you what is normal, what would you answer? Is normal what you think is right or wrong? Is normal what your opinion of normal is? What even is normal?
Normal is what society says is normal, but is it right? It provokes thought, doesn’t it? If society, as a collective, states that to be normal you cannot have any differences, is that right? Of course, it is not. we all have our normality and what we see as normal will not be another’s. Maybe our perception of the term ‘normal’ is outdated and not fit for the 21st century.
Autism is normal, although society has some issues when it comes to understanding it. Here are a few quotes I hear on a regular basis, “You need to change”; “Stop being so sensitive”; “You never listen”; “Stop overreacting”; “Take these antidepressants”, and a really good one I was told last week was “there's no such thing as Asperger's or ADHD, children just need to be taught how to behave properly and they need to eat properly”. Is this how autism should be dealt with? All the above statements could help an autistic person but not all autistic people will fit the statements.
Should autistic children learn to behave the way society says is the right way to behave or should society behave the way autistic children see the world? How does society identify a child with autism? If our disability is silent and invisible how is society expected to accommodate?
Understanding my normal
It’s a difficult subject area and one that may never be answered but let’s make a start. If I said that the only way to cope with society and act as society sees normal I need a ‘safe place’. If I then said my safe place is my home, what would you think? Why does she need a safe place? Who does she think she is? Some people have laughed at me and said their safe place is the pub. I find this funny too, we all love a drink or three, but it defers away from the enormity of the statement.
Imagine walking around the streets on a Saturday doing a bit of shopping with your friends. Easy enough? My kind of nightmare. The noises and busyness cause me so much fatigue it’s unreal. Then we walk into a shop and the shopkeeper says “sorry you can’t enter today because you have mud on your shoes”, normal enough statement and I can fully understand it after the occasion but at the time all I receive in my head is the woman shouting loudly that I can’t come in because I have muddy shoes. NUTS! Nevertheless, it’s my nuts and it’s my normal this is who I am. Now I am feeling even more exhausted and on edge. We are heading for meltdown now, but we are not there yet. I am even more exhausted now as I’m over analysing the situation and trying to understand if the lady was angry with me because I can’t tell from her voice or facial expressions if she is angry at me or non-plussed. By this time, I am feeling burnt out and my head hurts. Should I just “stop overreacting” like people tell me I should? I wish. It’s not possible to rationalise at the time these things happen as my brain isn’t wired like other people, but I can rationalise. I can learn from the situation, but I cannot change the situation that has happened.
My safe place means I can be myself without having to try to be anyone else or try to understand others, my safe place means I can recoup and power up again after trying to understand a world that is not my normal.
Exhaustion is a real problem for people with autism, by the end of the day, you can be mentally and physically exhausted which can bring on comorbidities.
Dyspraxia, dyslexia, ADHD, stress, gastrointestinal problems, language delay, mental health conditions, bipolar disorder, depression, the list goes on. Using up so much of a child’s stress hormones at a young age may cause them to be diagnosed with comorbidities in later life.
What happens to children that are not diagnosed with additional needs at a young age? Do they learn to live as a ‘normal’ person? Doubtful. What is more likely to happen is repeated masking and behaviour that may cause harm to themselves. What it is also likely to cause is other conditions that can be caused by the body that is in fight or flight mode for the majority of their lives.
When I was very young, I always knew I was ‘different’, I simply didn’t understand how I was supposed to handle it? I pretended to be ‘normal’ and tried to fit in, but I was plagued by fatigue so bad that I spent most of my teenage years in pain or sleeping. In my thirties, I was diagnosed with a rare autoimmune condition that I attribute to my body and mind living in a world that is so alien.
The whole of my primary years I spent stood in the same place at break times as I simply couldn’t cope with playing games with others as I didn’t understand what other children were meaning as facial expression etc are alien to me. Instead of playing games with my peers, I stood alone. Might this have been a red flag for the teachers? Probably but it was never flagged.
I want to bring awareness to Nannies that are caring for children that seem different to what society sees as normal. Are they always demanding attention? Do they cry a lot? Whatever the behaviour is could be their normal, but it also needs to be thought about whether this could be something that you might need to fight their corner for?
I have followed a few nannies asking how to handle a situation at work with a “naughty child”, I have also seen some answers which quite frankly I find upsetting. Children are not born naughty. Nature and nurture play a huge part in their lives and will impact their behaviours. You as a nanny are part of their nurture and you can change the way they see the world. What I hope you as a nanny take away from reading these three-part blogs is to ‘be more neurodiverse ‘in the way you engage with your charges. I hope it helps you to learn to think outside of the one size fits all box and if a child is what you see as naughty, think, are they really being naughty or are they simply trying to live in a world where normal is an uphill struggle?
Setting me up for life (Part two)
The earlier a child gets a diagnosis the earlier that child will learn to live in a world that is less likely to understand their hidden disabilities.
You as a nanny can do many things to make your charges life so much easier, you can also enable neurotypical children to be more acknowledging of neurodiverse children which could be the key to a change in the world of hidden disabilities.
Next week I will explain how you as a nanny can set a child up with the right skills to live in a world of difference be it enabling the disabled child or enabling a child without disabilities to understand what an invisible disability is.
How I am successful at nannying (Part three)
How have I managed to carve a career in childcare? What issues have I encountered? Do parents treat me differently when they know I have disabilities? Part three will delve deep into the ups and downs of having a career and living with autism in the hope that it may inspire others with disabilities to keep going when all you want to do is hide.
Emilie has been a nanny for over 23 Years. She’s currently working as a Nanny/PA and lives in the South of the UK. Emilie lives with her dog. When Emilie is not working, she enjoys exploring local footpaths and camping. She also volunteers as a Community First Responder for the Ambulance Service in her local area which she does to give back to her community.