Lower My Expectations For My ASD Child? Hell No...
Being the mother of a neurodiverse child I have noticed how often expectations are lowered for neurodiverse children. But, this lowering of expectations only seems to happen in the wrong environment.
In his previous school we found that teaching staff subtly, (and probably subconsciously), lowered their expectations of him. We removed him from the school.
Now he is in a school that achieves very high academic and social success.
My son no longer feels depressed or anxious, has a negative self-concept, avoids school, distrusts teaching staff, or thinks that his dyslexia or his autism will necessarily stop him from achieving the learning he is capable of- even if he does learn differently, and with the aid of Assistive Tech.
And he is now thriving. His learning progress surpassed all teachers' expectations. His teachers at his old school would not recognize him. And if they did, I think they’d soon realize that they may have missed a trick.
A 2019 study has found that although it took ASD students longer to engage with higher education, (and they are more likely to experience co-morbidity), the characteristics of ASD students were similar to other students.
Citing other studies, it highlights how the ASD young person’s university experience is often characterized by high achievement despite academic and non-academic challenges (my emphasis).
In its abstract it states that it hopes the findings will help parents and carers of children with ASD to “…adjust lower expectations”.
Personally, I found that my expectations for my son’s academic journey were initially high. But as the battles to get him the necessary support continued, (over a four year period), my expectations got lower and lower, in line with his teaching staff’s. I wonder if this is the experience of other ASD parents?
This study, and my family’s own experience gives me hope, and clarifies something for me:
Our children are perfectly capable of achieving as much as any other child. The fact that they are prone to comorbidity issues such as depression and anxiety is for me, yet more proof that it is the environment which disables them, not their conditions.
I came across this study through the Centre for Research in Autism Education . Their 2020 Annual Lecture (which is FREE by the way) is given by none other than Doctor Luke Beardon, the man who coined the ‘Golden Equation’ of autism practice that encapsulates both my son’s experience, and the findings of the recent Dutch study:
A simple equation, and one that feels like it is often overlooked by the education system and local government, in favour of instead, adopting lower expectations for our children. Let’s not do that. Because when we lower our expectations in that way, we make it a self-fulfilling prophecy.
I know it must feel to council officials that us ASD parents ‘always turn everything into a fight’. But this is because, we know in our bones, that equation is true:
We know that belief (or high expectations) means increased potential.
We know that increased potential leads to bigger actions.
We know that bigger actions are much more likely to lead to bigger results.
And we know that bigger results in turn lead to increased beliefs (or expectations). We are then on an upward spiral.
We know too, that a lack of belief, or lowered expectations, sets our children on a downward spiral:
Belief. Potential. Action. Result.
(This is not a new concept. It is Tony Robbins I believe- click the link for an inspirational video).
So often, I think this is why we fight for an EHCP- to get our children into the right environment: one in which expectations for their future won’t be lowered. So I’d like to adjust Mr Beardon’s equation just a little bit (I hope he doesn’t mind!).
Autism + (Environment x Expectation) = Outcome.
So should we lower our expectations for our ASD children? Hell no.
Keep fighting the good fight.
Kyra is a qualified counsellor and art therapist at NeuroTribe UK- the specialist therapies service for neurodiverse children, families, and 'well siblings'. Find out more about us here.
Links & Resources:
*Get tickets to the CRAE Annual 2020 Lecture here .
*The Study: Bakker T, Krabbendam L, Bhulai S, Begeer S. Research in Autism Spectrum Disorders Background and enrollment characteristics of students with autism in higher education. Res Autism Spectr Disord [Internet]. 2019;67(July):101424. Available from: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rasd.2019.101424