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Please Don't Judge My Parenting When You See My Child Using His Tablet

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I see you, sitting there subtly staring. Your look of disapproval is not invisible to me.

I see you, sitting at the next table with your children, puzzled at my decision, at my parenting practices.

I see you, looking at me from the corner of your eye. Your body language silently disapproving of my decision to give my child ice cream at this hour while he plays on his tablet.

I see you, forming judgments about me. You are not invisible.

And you know what? It hurts more than you could ever imagine that you think so low of me and my child with his invisible disability. I’m longing for you to ask me, to find out why I do these things. Why I go against the typical “sensible” parenting approaches. Please ask me. Please.

But you won’t. You take your silent judgments and leave, taking another small piece of my self-confidence with you. And since you won’t ask, I want to tell you…

It seems to be the overwhelming popular opinion that iPads and electronic tablets are a bad choice when it comes to parenting a young child. For us, it is a lifeline. A pathway into the outside world in which the kiddo can access typical locations such as cafes, play parks, and on a good day, maybe even supermarkets. How does it do this? I can tell you what I perceive it to do, but please don’t take this as a view of a person with autism for I am not autistic, I merely watch from the outside.

But here’s how I view it as a neurotypical person:

The outside world is loud. It’s loud, bright and constantly moving. There is no element of control, no grasp to be had of what moves where or what sounds echo through your head. If I lived in a world like this it would be utterly terrifying. I myself have anxiety, chronic at times. I’ve also been known to loose myself in my phone or a book in the busiest of environments to simply cope. The most memorable being a race course. Too many people, colors, noises. I couldn’t breathe. Now imagine feeling like this every time you leave your house. Sometimes even your bedroom. You need control, something to help you survive the chaos that suffocates you. Where do you find it? In an electronic tablet. A world where you control the volume, the brightness, the movement. And that’s how kiddo survives our painful neurotypical world.

He dives into a world he can control. And each time he leaves the house, he needs his tablet a little less, as he teaches himself how to cope, how to manage the overload of all his senses. Some days he hardly needs it at all, some days it is the only way he can make it. But every day he learns a little more and finds a way to experience and enjoy our world.

So when you see me, sitting at the table talking to my husband with my child on his tablet, reserve your judgment just this once, because you do not know. Without the tablet, we would not leave our house. Kiddo would struggle to learn to tolerate the outside world. He would struggle to interact with new people, or learn the skills he requires to make friends. For he would stay at home, fearful of what lies beyond the front door.

That electronic tablet is our family passport to a typical existence. As I write this, kiddo has put down his tablet and is currently running through a country park with his dad, flying down slides, navigating balance beams. The tablet has done its job. Now we as parents can do ours.

Follow this journey at The Autism Diaries.

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Originally published: November 10, 2017
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