There is something I've been fighting against since K was a toddler. It's the idea that because she is a girl, her reactions to things, her behaviors, are rooted more in the dramatic arts than in any disability. Many times I have been told that K is just "being dramatic", or that girls are just overly emotional. While none of that explained why my kid didn't speak in anything even resembling a sentence until she was four, or why she didn't play with toys, or couldn't pedal a bike, it was always used to explain meltdowns, and outbursts, bolting, and social issues.
Usually I hear these types of comments from "laypeople", if you will. Those untrained in autism or special education. Those who want to blame my parenting, or who think K would be fine if, you know, she was their kid (yes, this has been said.) Then there are just the "funny" passing comments people make. Comments they find funny, but which make me cringe. Or maybe they think calling my child dramatic takes away some of the sting they assume I feel because my child is autistic.
Drama can be changed. Cured. Calling K dramatic makes it seem like her challenges can be easily abated. Except, you know, it's not drama.
Usually I just allow these comments to roll off my back. I can't spend my life trying to convince people that K deals with some very real issues. I'm can't spend all my free time attempting to disprove "Rainman" or explaining the meaning of the word spectrum.
But last week, the D word came from someone I wouldn't expect to say it. Someone who is supposed to be helping K. Who, previously, was very concerned about my daughter. Last week, after a meltdown, this person rolled her eyes, saying "Oh, the drama!"
My stomach dropped. This is someone we have hired to get down to the nitty-gritty. To really figure out K's needs going forward. I had a lot of faith in her at first, but after that comment? I feel like we are wasting our money. Like there's no way K is going to continue to get the help she needs if the person charged with getting her that help thinks an anxiety-fueled meltdown=drama.
I loathe the D word. I hate how it's tossed around when you have a girl on the spectrum, as if everything can be explained away because, hormones. Because that's just how girls act. No one has ever used it with B. The process of getting him diagnosed was much easier, even. People expect boys to be autistic...but girls? Well, for a lot of them, the D word comes before any real diagnosis, or any real support.
Maybe it was an off-the-cuff remark meant to break the tension. Maybe I'm overthinking it, as I'm wont to do. But, if we keep perpetuating the idea that girls are just dramatic, and all of their struggles can be explained away by that (or other things, such as shyness), they will remain underdiagnosed, and lacking the support and services they need.
At this point, I can only hope for the best, and that this person remains dedicated to helping our daughter with her (well-documented) struggles. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal, but when you are a parent of a child who faces many real challenges, having anyone not take it seriously, that stings.