Beyond Compare?

I have started reading more blogs from other people who are also dealing with Autism in their own special ways.  It helps in an immediate way because you pick up helpful tips and techniques that you can apply to your own situation, but it also provides an opportunity to engage in what is probably frowned upon in such circles - comparing your child with theirs.

I was reading this relatively new but interesting blog by Julie where she describes her challenges in clothing her son (in his late teens).  It initially piqued my interest because we have had our own challenges with L and clothes.  Usually they are centred around his hyper-sensitivity and the feel of clothes on his skin.  He now generally has to approve any trousers he wears before they are purchased, wears jumpers and t-shirts that are too big (though we don't change them until he has grown out of them in a normal fashion, mwah ha ha ha ha) and sticks to one range of socks which are soft enough for him and have clearly marked out toes and heels so there is no chance of them being twisted.

We have (touch wood) not experienced any dressing failures with him lately, so we natuarally assume we have cracked it.  Clearly, there will be more challenges in the future and we have no clue how he and his Autism will develop, but I do look at Julie's situation and wonder.

I know L's condition is not as severe as Alan's and it is with relief that I expect we will not have to face the same issues as Julie does with her sons to the same degree.  I think this is fair enough to compare in this way as I am preparing myself for the future.

But what about when your child is with other Autistic kids of similar ages, or with his school friends?  I'm sure we all do some internal comparisons at some point, but they are rarely vocalised because society dictates it is rude to do so.

"L is definitely better at maths than x"
"Oh look, L has stopped and is listening but that other kid is still messing about"
"Oh no, L won't stop fidgetting but all the others are sitting still"

I'm sure that with Sauron's eye constantly glaring at your own child, you miss the behaviour of other kids which is probably contradictory to your thoughts, but hey that's what parenting is about.

So what about when other people do it to you?  When other people compare your kid to theirs?  Well, I'm sure they all do it and that's fine.  Yes, L has behaviour issues, he can be aggressive in a disproportionate fashion and yes, there are times when he has hurt someone.  But is he really that different to any other kid?

There are times though when the barrier is breached, when Sauron's eye is drawn across the plains of Mordor and onto another subject, when your child's transgressions mean that someone else becomes the focus of attention, of sympathy and of anger.

This is when your thoughts about someone else, about how they compare with your child can betray you.  When you share your opinions with others.

Unfortunately, in our experience, all that leads to is pain, suffering (yes, I'm in danger of mixing my film metaphors) and anger.

It is natural to compare your child's behaviours to others, and to rank them and decide they are the best at certain things and need to work on other things, but keep it to yourself and do not pretend to know what is going on in that other child's head.  Let the professionals deal with this (Teachers, Doctors, The Parents of The Kid), because wading into the debate just causes problems.

Crumbs, I've ranted a bit today, apologies.  It is dangerous getting involved in the behaviour of kids, regardless of whether they are ASD or simply 'neuro-typical'.


  1. I guess it IS rude to vocalize, but I think the main reason you aren't supposed to kid-compare is less about social niceties and more about the fact that it's not particularly useful.

    spectrum/snowflakes/met one kid with autism...cliches inserted.

    It IS useful to your psyche, perhaps, to see that other kids and parents are dealing with similar situations and that you're not "going it alone". But the fact that my 7 year old isn't potty trained and your 10 year old also isn't potty trained (for a hypothetical example) gives me no useful information to apply.

    Even if you had a 7 year old girl who WAS potty trained, and I had one who was not...your methods might fail with my daughter. It's just not a very useful practice to compare. That's MY opinion, mind you.

  2. Thanks Jim, I think that the problems really are that as parents we seek to absolve ourselves. Absolve ourselves that the condition is our fault, that we somehow caused it, absolve ourselves that we are doing the best we can do and not missing things out, and absolve ourselves that there is a future for our kids, that this isn't some endeavour doomed to fail.

    I think that's where we find comparisons useful, even if entirely internalised.

    My real thoughts in this entry were about an occasion when that wasn't the case on the part of another, and how it made us feel. I like to try and be diplomatic and put myself in their shoes.

    Thanks, my second ever commentor!

  3. Just wrote long comment before realizing couldn't post without signing up with an account below, maybe the reason why you've not had as many comments as you would like!!!!! Signed up now! Just wanted to say thankyou for taking the time to share your experience, just read your blog archives from start to finish. I found it both informative and a good read! As a parent of a 4 year old with diagnosed additional needs I have wondered on more than one occasion if the behavior she sometimes has is connected with autistic spectrum. I am trained to a degree level in education/ teaching but no amount of training prepares you for parenting! So my daughter often does not accept why she can\ can not do something her words ' right now' result tantrum. 'in a minute' 'its not time yet' and 'later' are not in her understanding! So time will tell, properly when she starts school next term if her non negotiating is a sign of anything..... Just wanted to say thankyou for sharing! It really is good to talk and get things off your chest!