High-Functioning and Free-Range

Hi kddanzhdyn
Readers: Here’s a nice reminder that Free-Rangers come in all shapes, sizes, ages and descriptions. — L

Dear Free-Range Kids: I have a 14-year-old daughter with high functioning autism. This weekend, she had a little get-together at a arcade-type facility for her birthday. It is pretty large but very safe: games, rides, laser tag, etc. She was waiting in line with her 25-year-old friend with Down Syndrome for a carousel ride.

I work very hard to make my daughter as independent as possible. My mother (her grandmother)  was with us at the party, but she needed to leave. I had to retrieve something from her car. “What about the girls???” she gasped.  I said they’d be fine for five minutes. She flipped out. “No! We can’t leave them alone!”

I found this very frustrating and said so. Argued that there were NOT child molesters roaming the facility and that they would be fine for five minutes. (Neither of them wander and both were eager for the carousel ride). “You don’t know that! Child molesters love places where children gather,” said my mom.

Maybe. Perhaps. But secure in the fact that they would not get far in less than five minutes, I took my mother by the elbow, led her downstairs, retrieved the item, and calmly went BACK upstairs.

Surprise! The girls were on the carousel, waving to me, and happy as could be.

I will continue to foster my daughter’s independence.  — Jamie Wheeler

52 Responses to High-Functioning and Free-Range

  1. dmd March 29, 2011 at 4:27 am #

    You can’t really blame the grandma. She’s been force-fed these ideas for years.

  2. SKL March 29, 2011 at 4:38 am #

    Off topic – but today I felt a bit brave. I’m in a big city away from home, with my two 4-year-olds. My company held a conference today and I needed to attend. My girls attended part of the conference, and sat in an adjoining room for part of it (coloring, watching a DVD). I felt they ought to spend the rest of the afternoon napping, and one of my daughters agreed. So I took them up to our room and got them all situated, told them not to answer the door (because anyone with any reason to enter would have a key), hung the “privacy” notice outside the door, and left. I checked on them a few times until I was sure they were asleep, and then stayed downstairs for the remainder of the conference (only about 45 minutes).

    I have to admit to feeling paranoid about every “look” I got. My chief worry would be that someone would report my kids as being “neglected,” and who knows what that would mean in a big city away from home (where there is a lot of poverty and hence probably lots of precedent for this kind of “child neglect.”)

    Of course nothing happened, and the surely all are better off for the kids’ napping!

  3. SKL March 29, 2011 at 4:41 am #

    Oh, and as for the high-functioning special needs kids – this may be the last frontier for free range, so kudos to this parent! My brother’s kid has aspergers, but he has been in scouts since he was little, and has reached an exceptionally high rank for his age. He has gone on out-of-state, long-term hiking/camping trips and his mom pretty much didn’t breathe the whole time, but kudos to her for recognizing that letting him do that was so important in many ways.

  4. Nicola March 29, 2011 at 4:57 am #

    Kudos!!!!! With luck, Grandma will start to come around and see the light. 🙂

  5. TE March 29, 2011 at 5:01 am #

    I was hoping this topic would come up here some time. My six-year-old was has high-functioning autism (also known as Asperger’s syndrome), and it’s definitely added some complexity to my husband’s and my free-range ideals. We’re still free-rangers, but we’ve realized that we’re going to have a bit more work in preparing our son to be independent.

    Kids with Asperger’s can be extremely intelligent in many ways, but they tend to be late bloomers and need assistance when it comes to developing “pragmatic skills”. In other words, you can’t necessarily trust in your child’s common sense, because — while they may be fascinating conversationalists who are able to recite epic poems, assemble complex models, and understand advanced scientific theories — common sense doesn’t come naturally. But I have every confidence that it *can* be taught, and that many kids with Asperger’s/high-functioning autism can eventually be free range.

    @SKL: Your brother and his wife are inspirational, as is their son. I can totally sympathize with the “pretty much didn’t breathe” thing. 🙂

  6. LoopyLoo March 29, 2011 at 5:03 am #

    Good for you, Jamie. 🙂 My daughter also has autism and we plan to give her as much freedom as safety allows.

    “Oh, and as for the high-functioning special needs kids – this may be the last frontier for free range”

    Yeah, no doubt. But I think (HF) special needs kids can reap the same benefits from free-range parenting as typically-developing children.

  7. SKL March 29, 2011 at 5:12 am #

    I have a daughter who has some special needs (not simple to explain), and she herself tends to be very reluctant to “free range,” even when I encourage it. I feel bad but sometimes I “force” her to leave her comfort zone – after which she is thrilled to discover what she’s capable of. I think she needs early free-ranging more than a typical child, because it forces her to be more aware of her surroundings, which she isn’t naturally inclined to be.

  8. EricS March 29, 2011 at 5:56 am #

    Right on! Maybe she should sit her mother down, and educate her. Special needs kids are more susceptible to influences than other kids. Because they tend to be more acutely aware of things, they take things more literally than most kids. So if they are constantly told that there are “bad things and bad people lurking in every corner, waiting to get THEM” that’s what they’ll believe. That’s no way to raise them. It’s selfish and extremely unfair. Glad some mothers are starting to realize this.

  9. Jamie Wheeler March 29, 2011 at 6:03 am #

    Thank you, everyone, for the support.

    Funny thing about my mom…. when I was a kid, we lived in Haiti and I went EVERYWHERE by myself and with friends. We rode the TopTops and went to the beach, to market, literally everywhere. Never got in any trouble at all.

    I think my mom’s career in law enforcement has made her paranoid. I guess if you’re around that element all the time it’s hard not to be. But I won’t be sucked into extreme paranoia.

  10. Heather March 29, 2011 at 6:17 am #

    We’ve just spent the weekend with the in laws. They had 4 kids, and lived a life that would now be free-range and was then normal. She commented to me that she knows she’s more protective of my son than she was of her own.


  11. michelle March 29, 2011 at 8:27 am #

    My son is mentally impaired but extremely independent and very social. I worry more about someone giving him the right amount of change at the store than I do about anything else happening to him but my mom is the same as Jamie’s mom. She about had a heart attack when the kids asked to take her golf cart on a cruise around her senior citizen GATED community because “someone” might kidnap them. I told her none of the creepy old men there were fast enough to catch them on the golf cart and the air horn she has mounted on the front would scare off the gardners with weird ideas. Sheesh.

  12. TinkAe March 29, 2011 at 8:42 am #

    “Special needs kids are more susceptible to influences than other kids. Because they tend to be more acutely aware of things, they take things more literally than most kids. So if they are constantly told that there are “bad things and bad people lurking in every corner, waiting to get THEM” that’s what they’ll believe.”

    EricS, you are SOOOO right about how being “literal” & hearing these things has this effect of causing real fear.

  13. TinkAe March 29, 2011 at 8:47 am #

    I was & am rather literal. Growing up when I heard about what kidnappers, murderers & molesters had done it didn’t serve to help me “be safe” so much as rob my innocence. Don’t we try to shield kids from danger to protect their innocence???

    After having these ideas put in my head I felt like I HAD been molested. It was TERRIBLE.

  14. Steve March 29, 2011 at 8:56 am #

    Wow a good ending I love it.

  15. Jamie Wheeler March 29, 2011 at 9:01 am #

    Same reason I’m not big on church. I lived in fear of Hell for too many years. I was the guiltiest 6 yr old on the planet. Something else I’m not interested in inflicting on my kids.

  16. Sam March 29, 2011 at 9:18 am #

    Yes, we’ve got an undiagnosed, but fairly classic case in our family. The treatises are frequent, but the common sense is utterly absent. It’s probably more frustrating to us. We see that our younger child is totally prepared to deal with all sorts of practical FR challenges right now, but the older one is not ready at all. He’s started noticing when he’s absentminded and forgetful, which is a first step toward addressing it at least.

  17. bmj2k March 29, 2011 at 9:36 am #

    “You don’t know that! Child molesters love places where children gather,”

    Howdoes she know that? From TV? certanly not from crime statistics.

  18. Jamie Wheeler March 29, 2011 at 9:49 am #

    Well, as I said earlier, she’s in law enforcement and sees way too much of the seemier side of life.

  19. Larry Harrison March 29, 2011 at 12:33 pm #

    Way to go not just with not giving in to irrational fears you could’ve had, but even better, irrational fears from someone else (your mother) and instead trusting your own self. We need more of this sort of thing.

    Samsung Captivate Android Phone

  20. Tracie March 29, 2011 at 1:20 pm #

    I also have a daughter with high functioning autism (but not Asperger’s – there is/can be a slight difference) who is 16, and I’ve noticed for many years that she is more capable and independent than many of her typical peers. On the one hand, it can be harder to let them have the freedom when you know the world is a more challenging place – on the other, having once been unsure my daughter would be able to do anything for herself, it seems like craziness to even think about depriving her of any opportunity to feel capable and independent!

  21. Bee March 29, 2011 at 3:19 pm #

    As a future foster mom in training I just have to say I am so enjoying your blog!


  22. Lucia March 29, 2011 at 3:54 pm #

    Nothing to do with this post, but I wanted to bring Lenore’s attention to this article published in “The Age” today. Parents are so devoting so much time/resources to “stimulating” babies into faster development; but this has been shown to have no effect or even be counterproductive in some cases!


  23. sue March 29, 2011 at 4:37 pm #

    Child molesters may love places where there are large numbers of kids. But how many would be stupid enough to molest a child in a public place in full view of hundreds of people? How many kidnappers would abduct a child in a public area with lots of witnesses? I would think that the answer to both of those questions is zero.

    Kudos to Jamie for making her daughter as independent as possible and for letting her daughter’s friend with Down syndrome experience a little independence too.

    Off-topic for this particular article, but on the topic of child molesters, there was an ad in the newsletter in the base where I work for someone to work in the church nursery. Only “responsible females” are requested for this position. I blogged about the ad and how it perpetuated the idea that men are automatically considered child molesters. Here is the link:

  24. Tuppence March 29, 2011 at 6:22 pm #

    Good on ya, Jamie (and others who shared similar stories) for not letting fear stand in the way of living life as you would like to. Hasn’t this blog been wonderful in helping us to lower the shrill sound of the hype, think about actual risk, and empower (omg, I used that word, shoot me!) us to make choices that WE decide are safe?

    Several posts ago, there was a complaint that this blog focuses too much on the negative, and goes out of its way to look for things to pick on. Of course there will always be the occasional post that one doesn’t agree with or thinks pointless, but I take issue with the concept that this blog is generally negative. I would suggest the opposite is true: The ultimate message of Free-Range Kids is very positive, one could even say, joyous, it’s: Enjoy yourself! — Enjoy playing (kids). Enjoy knowing kids are enjoying themselves playing (adults). Enjoy the freedom. And the freedom FROM (worry).
    But Freeranging has got a natural enemy: Fear. The baseless variety.

    And that fear needs to be actively and often combated to defeat it. Indeed, THAT’S the “negative” message that needs to be strummed out of our heads. And it’s fantastic that we’ve got our own “gal on the beat” , watch-dogging, as it were, to bring us the latest on the “scare the begebbas outta ’em” front. So we can laugh. At ourselves. And lighten up. And live a little (or a lot). And then share our stories of triumph, like these.

  25. momfog March 29, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    My 10-year-old son has high-functioning autism. He is extremely literal, which is an advantage as far as rules go. This weekend was the first time I’ve left him alone. He had a list of rules and cell phone numbers. I was gone for maybe two hours and he was absolutely fine. I felt guilty the whole time and imagined all kinds of ridiculous scenarios that would end in me getting arrested for neglecting my special needs child. It was absurd. I know what he’s capable of and he knew he could do it. I’m trying to raise an independent child and I don’t want a label to prevent him from reaching his full potential.

  26. sue March 29, 2011 at 7:59 pm #

    I agree with Tuppence that this blog is mostly positive. Lenore does talk about the culture of fear and helicopter parenting in the States and brings up examples of them. But she also posts a lot of positive stories like today’s. The fear that pervades the States with regard to perverts and kidnappings by strangers won’t go away overnight. But it’s great to have someone like Lenore to take up the cause of free-ranging. Little by little people will let go of their fears and realize that their children are capable beings who won’t be abducted or molested if they do something on their own.

  27. jim bauerlein March 29, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    Friend told me recently that last year she was parked in front of a drug store in super middle class mall, 4 year old asleep in car, she got out, locked door,cracked window and ran into drug store- when she came out a cop was there & he arrested her, hand cuffed and took her to jail – got a felony conviction($5000) lawyer bill, and if her husband had not shown up quick the kid would have been taken to child services- I was astounded, my friend is really clean cut classy women , crazy over reaction. If she was a single mom without the bail $$$ she would still be in jail & have lost her child.

  28. Emiky March 29, 2011 at 9:34 pm #

    Maybe I’ve just known too many people who fall under the high-functioning category, but I have trouble thinking of why you would take too many extra steps to protect then! My father has Asbergers… he holds a masters degree, holds a good job, has been married for 28 years and has raised seven bright and independent kids. My old boss’ kid was praised for years for his intelligence and independence before he was diagnosed with Aspergers—didn’t change his life none. I’ve known quite a few with autism and Down’s syndrome who have managed to lead very independent lived–and some weren’t even high functioning. I just wasn’t raised to see why every case requires so much less indepence. If this lovely 14-year-old girl is going to take care of herself as much as possible, five minutes of independence here and there will only be healthy. Bravo!

  29. Lola March 29, 2011 at 9:57 pm #

    My sister has seven kids. The eldest has just been diagnosed Asperger’s, the second has ADHD, and the rest are still too young to diagnose for certain, but they apparently follow their brothers’ steps. Not a very peaceful household, but happy all the same.
    Although they are only 11 and 8 yo, the two eldest usually run errands for their mother on their own (such as hopping down to the grocery to buy a couple of things, or to the pharmacy to get their sister’s medicine). Occasionally they go on public transport for a sleep-over at a friend’s house, those sort of things.
    It’s only been a couple of times that my sister has had to fetch some kid when he got off on the wrong bus stop, as they are not really capable of figuring things out when something unexpected happens.
    But really, with all the difficulties they are facing, child predators are way, way down the “things that could go wrong” list. And I’d dare any CPS worker to find a better way to raise those kids.

  30. mamamezzo March 29, 2011 at 10:12 pm #

    I’m impressed by the way you stayed with your instinct despite parental pressure and filing for my own future reference!

  31. North of 49 March 29, 2011 at 10:13 pm #

    Gotta remember, Grandma was raised during the time when “not perfects” were locked away and forgotten about in institutions.

  32. Serena Enslow March 29, 2011 at 10:16 pm #

    I was once at the Carousel Center Mall in Syracuse with my husband, 18-year-old stepson, 11-year-old son and 6- year old son. We went to the food court for dinner and my sons wanted to ride the carousel. I took the boys to get hamburgers while my husband and step-son wandered off to find other food. When I got the cheeseburgers I couldn’t find my husband so I sat my boys down at a table to eat so I could find their father. I found him inside Uno Chicago Grill, they had decided to have a sit-down lunch instead. I went back to my boys who had finished eating and wanted to ride on the carousel. I gave them money to do so and told them we would be in the restaurant and to come find us when they were done. They did exactly as they were told and no one was molested, abducted, or harmed in any way and this was in a packed mall in Syracuse

  33. pentamom March 29, 2011 at 10:41 pm #

    “Gotta remember, Grandma was raised during the time when “not perfects” were locked away and forgotten about in institutions.”

    Depends how old Grandma is. I know of a couple in their late 80’s who raised an autistic son at home and included him as much as possible in family life. But at best, the grandma in the story was raised during the time when autism was very poorly understood and there was little to no therapy and parents weren’t taught how to help their kids maximize their abilities. So at best, neurologically challenged kids were almost entirely objects of pity and protection. In the family I mentioned above, the son was very low functioning despite probably being somewhere in the middle of the spectrum, mostly because “just taking care of him” was the best anyone knew how to do.

  34. Kristen March 30, 2011 at 12:02 am #

    I have to comment on this story – as I know all about insanely overprotective grandmothers. In my case, it’s my mother in law. Due to my husband and I and our two sons (2 and 5 months) running the family farm, we live very close to the grandparents and great-grandparents. My husband’s mother is unashamedly safety oriented.

    When she babysits my two year old, she even tells him not to run because “he might fall and hurt himself.” Amongst other gems – when we are invited for dinner at her place she finds it necessary to serve my two year old’s plate and cut all the food into pieces the size of peas. He won’t even touch some of the food because he can’t recognize it cut up so small! She feels it necessary to “remind” us to make sure we check the temperature of his food in case it’s too hot. Apparently a 27 year old isn’t capable of common sense. She follows the age restrictions on toys religiously instead of relying on the maturity of the child in question, closes the gate at the top of the stairs in my house (on the off chance it’s open) even though my son can capably climb up and down stairs alone and is VERY careful. When it’s twenty eight degrees in my house (it’s an apartment attached to the grandparent’s house) because we have massive windows and the sun heats up it – she comes in here and they are “under-dressed,” she says “Oh Aiden it’s winter, you’re making ME cold!” Argggh!

    She wouldn’t let her own sons chew gum until they were fourteen, play football even at sixteen because it might harm their “growing bones, have any sleepovers(ever) because she didn’t know the other parents well enough. And it goes on. This woman doesn’t know the meaning of Free Range – because everything in her life, and I’m not exaggerating in the least – is thought of in terms of “how safe is this?” first and foremost. It is extremely tiring at the best of times – and makes me seriously angry at the worst. Wish me luck – I think I’m going to need it when my kids are a bit older and have interests and pursuits of their own – that aren’t “safe” in her mind.

  35. LoopyLoo March 30, 2011 at 12:35 am #

    “Maybe I’ve just known too many people who fall under the high-functioning category, but I have trouble thinking of why you would take too many extra steps to protect then!”

    Well, every case is different and every parent needs to make their own assessment of risk. I will say that high-functioning autism and Aspergers are NOT the same thing and it’s frustrating to see them grouped together. My brother has Asperger’s syndrome and it really hasn’t effected his life negatively except that he’s a little awkward and has trouble reading social cues. My daughter with autism faces far far greater challenges. We have to be careful with her because like many autistic people, she “bolts” and has absolutely no fear of water or traffic.

  36. momfog March 30, 2011 at 1:22 am #

    @LoopyLoo My high-functioning autistic (not Asperger’s) child was exactly the same way when he was younger. He didn’t have fear of anything (except sand-sensory issue) and we had to watch him like a hawk. At a picnic, a relative literally had to pluck him out of the rushing river when he got too close and fell in. He didn’t even cry out. Couple that with an incredibly high pain tolerance (which he still has) and it’s easy to see why having to watch him closely was so important.

    Autism is a spectrum disorder, not a catch-all diagnosis.

  37. Jamie Wheeler March 30, 2011 at 1:25 am #

    First, I’d like to completely agree with those saying HFA and Asp are different. My daughter is def HFA.

    @momfog- my daughter was the same as a child, but not now. I don’t want to hold her back. She IS much more aware and responsible now.

  38. TE March 30, 2011 at 3:13 am #

    My apologies if I muddied the waters (and detracted from the main issue) when I said that high-functioning autism and Asperger’s are the same. My understanding (from both my son’s psychologist and developmental pediatrician) is that the two are the same. It was explained to me that Asperger’s is an autism spectrum disorder that exists at the high-functioning end of the spectrum.

    In my reading, however, I’ve come across a lot of debate about this. Every kid I’ve met who is on the spectrum is unique, so it seems like it’s impossible to arrive at a one-size-fits-all definition. Just like it’s impossible to arrive at a one-size-fits-all definition for humanity at large.

    Regardless, it seems like the one thing we can all get behind is the fact that we have to trust our ability to know what are kids are capable of, as well as our ability to help them grow their capabilities.

  39. Kim March 30, 2011 at 3:55 am #

    Ok so this is weird. Serena…I just noticed that you and my cousin are friends on facebook. Too funny! I had noticed your comment about the mall in Syracuse this morning and thought it was neat since I’ve been there several times, and then just a few minutes ago I happened to look at my cousins facebook page and saw your name. What a small world.

  40. Mary Garner March 30, 2011 at 4:10 am #

    I had an incident in a parking deck last week that made me stop and think: What about free-range adults?

    I was walking out to my car, and out of nowhere, this woman I didn’t know came up and started chastising me for not having my keys in my hand. “You are NOT prepared!” she said (kinda loudly). “You need to be aware of your surroundings! (And for the record, I am.) Have those keys ready in your hand so you can defend yourself! Women get mugged in this parking deck all the time!”

    I know better. I’ve been parking in the same parking deck five days a week for eleven years now, and as far as I know, not a single person (male or female) has ever been mugged in that parking deck.

    Also, I used to commute 120 miles round-trip to work every day. It really worried a lot of people (especially older people) that I drove so far every day by myself (in the DARK sometimes, no less!). They couldn’t understand how I could do this and remain calm about it.

    So what I was wondering was…have you ever given any thought to how being a free-range adult is sometimes seen as a bad thing? Are we women really in that much danger on a daily (or minute-by-minute) basis? Are men subjected to this way of thinking?

    Just curious.

  41. RobynHeud March 30, 2011 at 4:40 am #

    @Mary – My husband went to army boot camp when I was about 6 weeks pregnant. Once he had left, I decided I wanted to be with him during his school, so I packed up everything and began planning a trip from Utah to Georgia. Most of the people who knew me didn’t worry, but I was still encouraged to buy a gun “for protection”. A lot of people also wanted me to check in every day via text and when I mentioned I wanted to save money by just sleeping over at rest stops, I was told all about the horrible things that happened at rest stops. Honestly, I was more worried about things being stolen off my open trailer while I slept in a hotel than I was about being mugged. And the only man who approached me was at a gas station where my coolant was leaking (the reservoir had cracked) and he gave me his number since he was heading to the same town I was in case I needed help/broke down. It just drove me crazy that I would have to break down every little thing I had done to prepare for the trip (right down to the fire extinguisher I had under the driver’s seat) before people would feel a little bit comfortable about me going it alone. And slightly off topic, but I also hate how everyone assumes it’s my husband who does all of the maintenance and handyman work around the house. Yes they are my tools. Yes, I am an engineer. Oh, and yes, I’m the one who taught my husband how to change a tire, change the oil and fix up the brakes. My husband cooks and gardens and cares for the baby. I do plumbing and electrical installation and repairs. Please stop assuming that because I’m a woman, I’m incapable. Down with the damsel (and children) in distress mentality! (and thanks for letting me rant)

  42. Denise March 30, 2011 at 6:24 am #

    I hear you about the free range adults! In the past two weeks, I’ve been approached twice because my purse was in the cart instead of on me. It seems this is a new “failure to be prepared” even if I’m pushing the cart. Woman came up to me and told me that her purse was stolen in church.

    I couldn’t help it- I said it must be tiring to relive that every time she went shopping.

  43. treen March 30, 2011 at 7:07 am #

    My “free range adult” story is that a few years ago, I decided kind of on a whim to move from Oregon
    to Washington DC and see how things went. I had a friend to stay with there until I could get a job, more permanent housing, etc. so I wasn’t worried about anything. During my planning, I was stunned that the most common question was, “What do your parents think?”

    My response: “I’m 30 years old. It doesn’t matter what my parents think.”

  44. Angelina March 30, 2011 at 9:57 am #

    @ Mary. I get similar lectures pretty regularly,I walk nearly everywhere despite having a car and I have heard about how I’m putting myself in danger just by not being in a car. The cashier at my local 7-11 lectured me because I had my 13mo. Son in his stroller and had walked up to the store with him at(gasp)8 pm. She then proceeded to tell me that two women had been murdered and chopped up(really,her words exactly!) in our neighborhood park. I wondered aloud why that hadn’t been in the newspaper and she claimed I must have missed that day!!! People are utterly convinced that axe murderers lurk on every corner and if you don’t believe them they’ll make up a story to convince you. I am aware that there are real dangers but honestly I cannot just lock myself into my home or my car 24/7 on the unlikely chance I might become a victim.

  45. Uly March 30, 2011 at 10:28 am #

    1. Asperger’s is about to be lumped in with autism as the same diagnosis in the next DSM, so really, I wouldn’t worry about your terminology so long as you’re being polite and respectful. (Or maybe it has been already? I don’t follow that as closely as some.)

    2. As far as Free Range women goes (and to my knowledge, women do get this more than men), I believe this is the sort of submission MFIF asks for.

  46. Jamie Wheeler March 30, 2011 at 11:01 am #

    I’m about to take a trip to San Antonio with my kids for the weekend (I live in Dallas). My mother (naturally) is panicked. I’m 44 yrs old. I am pretty sure I can drive in what is essentially a straight line, even if it is for 6 hrs.

    Nevertheless, I have been given a GPS and many inquiries on the state of my car (oil, brakes, etc).


  47. LoopyLoo March 30, 2011 at 10:28 pm #

    “Asperger’s is about to be lumped in with autism as the same diagnosis in the next DSM, so really, I wouldn’t worry about your terminology so long as you’re being polite and respectful.”

    Which a lot of people find annoying and upsetting. I have significant experience with both and don’t think they have much in common at all. It’s frustrating for those of us with a child diagnosed with autism because the challenges faced by people with Asperger’s are so very different. And there’s a lot of people with Asperger’s who — PC or not — understandably aren’t thrilled with being lumped in with a syndrome where 95 percent of those diagnosed suffer from mental retardation. My brother (Asperger’s) has an IQ that went off the chart when they attempted to measure it in high school. I think being described as “autistic” would have been harmful to him, and I speak as someone with a child on the moderate end of the spectrum.

    /rant off

    As for the free-range women thing: someone wrote a great comment a few weeks back about hyper-parenting being about controlling women and keeping us saddled with unnecessary guilt/worry. If the majority of your energy is devoted to protecting yourself and your children against dangers that don’t exist, you have a lot less resources to do things that matter. Not much chance you’re going to be changing the world if you’re washing your kids’ hands 20 times a day and always on the lookout for that axe-murderer!

  48. Uly March 31, 2011 at 2:43 am #

    And there’s a lot of us aspies who have been calling ourselves autistic for years. But I was trying not to start a fight today, thanks.

  49. Amy - Parenting Gone Mad March 31, 2011 at 12:29 pm #

    Good on you Jamie! My girlfriend has just been told that her 2 year old has autism. I shall show her your story for inspiration:)

  50. Omri April 2, 2011 at 3:49 am #

    You can argue on the semantics of who has autism and who has Asperger’s, but “high functioning” generally means the kid is expected to assume legal adulthood at 18.

    Can’t be left alone at 14, but legal adult at 18? Someone needs to think a little long term here.

  51. Jen April 2, 2011 at 12:01 pm #

    While I don’t have a lot of experience with kids with disabilities, I will add a bit of personal experience in general here. My grandmother was absolutely paranoid about my sister and I, usually rightly so since I was horribly accident-prone as a child. I’d climb up on the swing-set and jump off the top of the monkey bars at 6 years old. I’m continually amazed I have never suffered worse than a sprained ankle (and those were all older, while I was taking dance classes). My mother would constantly tell my grandmother not to worry, that I’d be fine regardless of what kind of stupid thing I was doing.

    Now that I have a 2 year old, who is absolutely fearless, and tries to do a lot of the stuff I used to do, my mom looked at me the other day and told me she now knows how my grandmother used to feel. While mom is better about letting Gwen go than Gram was at letting my sis and me go, she’s still a lot more concerned and overprotective about things with Gwen than she was with my sis and me. She says it makes a big difference when it’s not your child you’re being laid back with.

  52. Jennifer April 9, 2011 at 9:59 am #

    My 8, almost 9 year old son has Aspergers and I constantly push him out there to be more independent. He’s really starting to step up as he hits 9. When my daughter was born 2.5 years ago I would have to walk her in the stroller to quiet her and my son would inevitably refuse to come. He was 6.5 years old and was just getting over a lot of phobias about being alone. I started leaving him to take the baby up and down the street just far enough that he could see me if he got scared. That progressed to around the block and today, at almost 9 it’s a non issue. He isn’t always willing to go places with us and my 2 year old loves to ride her bike. So I will go for 10-15 minute walks and leave him alone. He loves it. I had someone comment about how dangerous that was, someone who doesn’t even know he has autism. I don’t think it is–I mean he has to learn to be independent and he’s been slower going than most kids. I’ve had him going into stores to pay for things while I stood outside for quite some time and things like that but leaving him on his own for 10-15 minutes isn’t the end of the world but most of our friends who have kids with autism think it is. There are going to be a lot of ASD adults out there who are totally incapable of doing things for themselves because people think they need to be coddled as children.

    Granted, some more severely affected ASD kids don’t recognize danger or are runners and special care needs to be taken with them. But for HF kids who understand danger and are aware….they need to be pushed and given a chance to be independent just like any other kid!

    Now, if I can just get this kid to ride his bike around the block alone it will be the accomplishment of the year!!!