Raising a Child with Autism and Global Citizenship

Mama Smiles

Being a global citizen isn’t just about appreciation of different cultures but different neurologies as well.

by MaryAnne, MamaSmiles

As the daughter of a diplomat, I was raised in five countries on three continents. Parenting a child with autism sometimes reminds me of the culture shock I would experience when moving to a new country or culture. I would do something, expecting a particular response, and get an entirely unexpected response. I would act expecting a reaction that would match my previous experience. Sometimes my guess was right, but frequently the rules I had formed based on my personal experience did not apply in this new context.

Autism is a different way of looking at the world, and the flexibility and observational skills that served me well as a third culture kid serve me well as the parent of a child with autism. Because autism is a different way of experiencing the world, raising a child with autism is teaching me how to be a better global citizen by broadening my worldview. I wrote about how raising a child with autism teaches me global citizenship in detail for Multicultural Kid Blogs. Here is a brief summary.

• Raising a child with autism is teaching me to question my assumptions.
• Raising a child with autism is teaching me patience.
• Raising a child with autism helps me appreciate diversity.
• Raising a child with autism helps me realize how much I do not know.

Becoming a true global citizen requires that we question our assumptions so that we can move beyond our personal cultural contexts. Patience – with ourselves as well as others – allows us the time we need to question assumptions and see through personal biases. It is tempting as a parent to wish that our children could simply take our perspective. As a global citizen, it is tempting to wish that other cultures would simply see things as we do. That’s an impossible expectation, and it is also completely ineffective. We need to appreciate diversity in order to make the most of the different insights and resources our world has on offer. We need to appreciate diversity to collaborate and communicate with others. And we cannot learn from others until we understand at least a beginning of just how much we do not know.

I thought I had a pretty good idea of what it meant to be a global citizen from years spent living in cultures other than the one represented by my passport. But I had barely scratched the surface of what the diverse ways of approaching and experiencing the world have to offer. There is so much that I do not understand, but I learn a little bit more every day. I have graduate degrees in medicine and education. That background is useful, but this experience of raising a child who sees and experiences the world so differently from me keeps me learning every day.

What has autism taught you?


MaryAnne is a mother of four who resides in Silicon Valley, California. She writes about intentional parenting, hands-on learning, and creativity. You can learn more about MaryAnne by visiting her blog, Mama Smiles – Joyful Parenting.

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