10/13/2014 04:16 pm ET Updated Dec 13, 2014

Autism Parents: What Category Do You Fit In?

Shanell Mouland

I have written before about my frustration with the marginalization of parents in the autism arena.  There is judgment abound among the public and even within the community itself. The way I see it, we are placed, by our own hand and others, into one of a few, superficial categories.  Having said that, I sincerely hope, that by detailing them here I do not further perpetuate the stereotypes, but instead draw attention to the fallacies that exist within them.  

Firstly, The Warrior Parent, who is kicking ass and taking names.  Don't get in their way because they will plow through you. I have been guilty of taking pride in falling into this category on occasion but I have come to realize that it is a dangerous place to sit. Credibility is difficult to hold onto when we are seen as a tunnel-visioned, battle-ready soldier ready to demolish the injustices in the autism world. The people that fall into this category are often articulate, strong, well-read and researched and they see little value in wasting time with things that don't directly involve improving autism services for their child and others. The very terms we use to praise these parents can pigeon-hole them into a category that often can intimidate policy-makers and worst case, deter our efforts. If you consider yourself a "warrior parent," please understand I am, in no way, suggesting you tone it down. In fact, I am going to kill it for Kate and I don't plan on making any apologies. I am asking that we re-think how we view the parents that scream it from the roof tops because if it wasn't for them we would have very little reform at all.  Their strength and resolve should not be reduced to a caricature of what they really are.

The next category is The Emotional-Wreck Parent; I also fall into this category on occasion. I am sure every parent does. I have been known to break down at odd times and may appear less than stable to the lucky diners next to us in the restaurant. These parents might appear to perseverate about the many and varied potential causes autism. These parents appear to be struggling with coping and holding it together. It would seem that all their thoughts and ideas are wrought with raw emotion and a desperateness that, like in the case of the "warrior parent," can turn people off and avert our cause.  Wrong! These parents, the ones that get emotional, which again encompasses most of us, are as eloquent and expressive as any with their concerns and desires. They take a more authentic route and allow their feelings to show and can do more good sharing their heartfelt experiences than any autism scholar out there. The objectives for these parents are no different than any other. It is unfair to diminish their feelings as 'emotional' and therefore less than valid or legitimate. These parents see clearly with the help of their emotions, not in spite of them.

The final category and I know there could be many more and sub-categories too, is The Private Parent.  They could be seen as removing themselves from the game because they choose to quietly take their family on the autism journey. These parents are our secret weapon. They are no less passionate about their children and they are educated and aware. They do not have to write a blog, or publicly battle policies they don't agree with but rest assured they are quietly and skillfully advocating for their child and that makes a difference for all of us. They will watch and read and intellectualize everything before making choices and when they do speak out it is powerful and game-changing.  I know many of my readers fall into this category because we have so many visitors that never comment. I respect this. I get it.

Obviously, I know that autism parents are far more diverse and intricate in their thoughts, feelings and actions than these three categories would allow. What do you think? Do you fit into any or all of these categories? Are there categories I have missed? Please share. I love hearing from you.