Saturday, December 31, 2011


“Autists are the ultimate square pegs, and the problem with pounding a square peg into a round hole is not that the hammering is hard work. It’s that you’re destroying the peg.”
— Paul Collins

"I saw the angel in the marble and carved until I set him free" - Michelangelo

Michelangelo could have used many methods to create his sculptural masterpieces. He could have taken a piece of marble, crushed it up into powder, mixed it with a combination of sand, cement, water, poured it into a mold, and TA-DA ....He could have made something like this:

But he didn't. Instead he made this:

He could have claimed that he created the angel out of the marble. But he didn't. What he says is that the angel was there all along. He saw it in there. He let the marble guide him, and in doing so he helped reveal what was there already. He didn't claim ownership of the internal beauty. He just helped set it free.

Did he have a hand in its creation? Sure. But if he had not respected the nature of the marble... if he not used proper methods and techniques and respect and care for that which nature provided... he would not have been the instrument in the creation of such beauty. Such beauty is not the product of ego or self focus.

It is the result of careful refinement of the senses to that which you are trying to reveal. It is about being sensitive to the nature of that which you work. It wasn't wood. It wasn't glass. It was marble, imbued with its own special properties... imbued with "marbleness".

Have you ever seen one of the true masterpieces close up? They glow. They capture the light in such a way that it seems like they burn from within. They are ethereal in beauty, as if God touched life into the stone. It is amazing to see.

When I think about raising a child with autism, I think of Michelangelo. I think of how he saw the angel in the marble. The beauty and truth of the child is already there, ready to reveal itself. The child is unique onto himself. You cannot look at the child and wish him to be other than he is. All you can do is see the true beauty that is the nature of this child. And with careful refinement of your own senses, you guide that child into revealing their very best.

That is what being child led is.

Imposing your will, imposing 'compliance', imposing your adult expectations and vision of what the child "should be" will only get you this:

But by following the child's lead, and by using your own sensitive engagement and guidance, you can help the child reveal their true essence. Their true beauty.

The neurodiversity movement stresses the idea that autism is not a disease. It is not an illness to be cured. Rather, it is a difference. A different way of seeing the world. A different way of being. And this difference deserves respect and understanding. I love this perspective, and yet I have often felt conflicted about it. How do I... J-man's neurotypical parent... help him learn to live in this world without trying to make him like his peers? How do I help him fit in and function here... in this world as it exists today? How do other parents of autistic children teach their child the ways of the world and how to make their way?  When the way they ARE is so very different? When their world can be so confusing and scary and fundamentally different than the one I understand and know...???

For me, the right approach seems to be the child led one. I will meet him where he is. I will appreciate his talents and excellence. I will sensitively understand how he sees the world (well, to the best of my ability) and I will hopefully be able to guide him to the next developmental step. I will allow for his quirkiness... cherish it even! And yet .... like all parents.... I will teach him how to channel his energy and communicate his thoughts.  Wherever he is at in the course of his life, he will know he is amazing.

And that he glows.


Crystal said...

Wow. How awesome. Pia, I love your make such sense. I love that you let us into your family, reading your insights has opened my eyes even more to what it would be like to parent a child with autism. Love you guys!

Anonymous said...

This is beautiful. Linking it on my FB page.

PS: putting you on my blogroll too

Pia said...

Thank you ladies! I love the positive feedback... it is always hard to me to gauge when something is good or just dribble. :)

suelmayer said...

Pia, you knocked it out of the ballpark with this post. It's absolutely beautiful just like Jman.

Anonymous said...

Pia, that is brilliantly profound! That deserves to be published!!! If only all parents of autistic or differently-abled children could read this!!! Anna

viv said...

Pia I follow you on dr mcdonalds web forum, thank you for the link. Awesome post You put it so perfectly. I have always said that we are going to "therapy out" all our poets, artists, architects etc with tsome of thecurrent approachs to autism.great job, love the michealangelo analogy!

Marie said...

Awesome. Beautifully said. Thank you so much for writing this.

Barbara Lechner said...

This should be required reading for every parent and every professional working with children. I would like to create a free online book to teach ALL parents to interact with their infant/toddler in ways you have found to be effective in developing J-man's social and communication skills (ala MacDonald). Don't want to restrict the info to any disorder/disability because then important years until diagnosis would be lost. This would be a book about "Ultimate Parenting" for ALL parents. A professional could talk all day and not have the impact that videos made by parents interacting with their child and captioned to illustrate balancing, matching, responding, sharing control, being playful, limiting questions, and ignoring negative behavior could have. There is an abundance of research showing positive results from video modeling. Can you help me?

Anonymous said...

Pia, I am also on Dr. McDonalds forum. This is lovely. Thank you so much.

Lynn said...

Awesome. That is beautiful. I wish all children were raised with this type of sensitivity. What a different world it would be if all children were respected and guided rather than forced and coerced.

Pia said...

Thanks again everyone!

@ Barbara: I would love to be involved! feel free to email me and let me know what or how I can help!!!


jessica said...

Pia, This is beautifully written and so profound and essential. You need to submit it to a magazine. Wow!

Teresa DeMars, author of ASD and Me said...

Hi Pia,
I added you to the Minnesota Autism Pages and shared your blog. Please check it out and if you would like me to change anything about the description of your blog, let me know. Here's the link and have a great day!!

Kj said...

Thought I left a message on this....has stayed with me sinc my first read. Very, very, very good, Pia.

J-man has one awsome momma to be proud of.

Chanda said...

Beautifully said...I can tell that you are a momma who loves her little J-Man with all your heart!


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