Wednesday, February 19, 2014

With All Due Respect

There's a very popular blogger who I love - Jess, a fellow autism mom who encourages respectful dialogue among her readers and is a strong proponent for autistic self-advocacy and presuming competence; this is all awesome. She even has the ear of important folks in government and in the disability-rights community; all even more awesome.

She make s a big point of asking her kids' permission before posting about them, and whenever her blog includes a photo of one of the children, she's careful to label it as "used with child's permission, as always." I understand her thinking on this subject - she wants her daughters to have a say in what information about them is posted in a public place, and specifically she wants her 10-year-old autistic daughter to get in the habit of advocating for herself - but something about this feels a little self-serving to me.

I can and must speak for my own child: he is a minor. In the United States we do not allow children to sign contracts because we do not consider them capable of understanding whatever it is they are agreeing to. We usually try young criminals in juvenile court because we agree that kids are incapable of fully understanding the consequences of their actions before reaching the age of majority. The human brain continues to mature into one's early 20s, but for most purposes we turn over the life-keys at 18.

My 8-year-old still believes the Tooth Fairy is real and finds it absurd that I won't let him live on cheese and pancakes alone. Even if he were neurotypical, I would not presume him capable of understanding the potential consequences of sharing a photo of himself on the internet.

I'm sure Jess has only the best of intentions, but I think she's fooling herself if she thinks her 10-year-old's consent is informed, reasoned, and meaningful.

So what's the alternative? As I've said before, my current tactic leans toward greater self-censorship. Now that Ryan has friends who can read (An aside: he has friends!!! How freaking great is that?), before I post something to this blog, I try to imagine how I would feel if I were a kid and my friends read it. Growing up is tough enough without your stupid mom embarrassing you. Consequently, there are lots of things I end up not sharing here, much to my disappointment (oh, the stories you're missing...). This is also why posts have become fewer and farther between in recent months. I've thought about password-protecting posts or giving the boy a pseudonym, but kids are smart enough to get past stuff like that.

Ryan with the Valentine he made for his best friend. Shared because he seemed pretty proud of it, and because I don't think he'll be embarrassed about it, as always.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Speaking Truth to Power

The other day the mayor of our little town visited Ryan's class to talk about his job. Previously, the class has welcomed a firefighter, a police officer, and other community helpers who I imagine make for more exciting show-and-tell than a politician - the flashiest thing Mayor Blake had to offer the kids was brand-new pencils with his name and title on them in shiny gold paint.

The mayor explained that in his job he has a lot of meetings with people and writes a lot of letters. Hearing this, Ryan became indignant. Defiantly, he barked at the mayor, "But your PENCIL is not SHARP!"

Like, duh, how can you write letters if your pencil isn't even sharpened?

The mayor stammered and admitted Ryan had a point. The teachers laughed and told the mayor, "He's got you there."

That's my boy: telling it like it is.