Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dressed for...Success?

This is part of a dog-park ensemble William wore the other day.

Parenting an autistic child has definitely been a different experience than with William’s two “neuro-typical” (NT) siblings.  In all the ways you would expect (we had speech appointments instead of playdates), but in other ways that I’m never sure how to handle.

One of these involves the area of personal style.

With the two older children my outlook on clothing was pretty hands-off.  I theorized that letting our daughter simultaneously wear polka-dots, plaid AND florals would let her “get it out of her system”! ( By the way, I was wrong.  And, as a 20 year old she has a fantastic style that is completely her own.)  With our older son, my only intervention was to ask that he either wear a black shirt OR black pants to school, not both.  

I believe in individual style, I really do. But I also know how you dress tells the world a little something about you.  And when you have a child with a disability, suddenly it seems like clothes can not only make the boy, but they might make the boy a target.

My friend works with high schoolers with ASD, and has a student re-entering public school from a home school environment. This young man’s sartorial choices include too-short jeans and sandals with socks.  My friend explained to his mother that these choices might single him out for teasing.  The mother objected, saying “It shouldn’t matter!”

She’s right.  It shouldn’t matter.  But it does.  Especially in middle school, which we are about to start. And so I will probably be a little more involved in William’s style than I would be if he didn’t have autism.  Which is not to say that he will be decked out in whatever is the pinnacle of trendiness right now.  It just means I will intervene if he tries to get on the bus with the outfit pictured above!

1 comment:

  1. Laura, YOU are such areal person. I can relate to the thoughts you have here. And the clothes shouldn't matter. But, I agree--it does say something about you and can make you a target. If the child is aware of that and can handle it--let it be. It may make the child stronger. But how hard to have to make the choice as parent, as guide, as protector to tell your child "You look ridiculous and you will be teased." And to say so because you do simply want to protect your child. I so appreciate your honesty.