Issue 61 April 2016

“Those who speak loudly and call anyone who disagrees with them a wimp often do a disservice to the cause they are promoting.”
~Marvin Olasky

Wimps welcome here

“. . . isn’t for wimps.

How we love our memes and bumper stickers, as if deep truths can be reduced to a few inches of lettering. Some time ago, I shoved back against a Facebook graphic braying “Autism isn’t for wimps.” You mean autism is a choice? A person with autism can opt out by choosing to be a wimp?

Since then, the list of what isn’t for wimps has mushroomed. Today’s internet search belched out this litany of what “isn’t for wimps:” autism, motherhood, being beautiful, advocacy work, nonviolence, love, filmmaking, teaching, marriage, history, relocation, leadership, getting older, religion, ballet, prayer, breastfeeding, healing, success, cycling, politics, daschunds, therapy, writing, Finland, pole dancing . . . and that’s only the first hundred hits of over 100,000.

That list lets out quite a lot of the human experience, doesn’t it? So what’s left for wimps, with or without autism? And what is a wimp, anyway?

Bear with me a pedantic moment here. Before wimp became a popular put-down, it originated as a physics acronym for “weakly interacting massive particle,” particles that interact with other particles by the force of gravity alone. Some scientists think WIMPS may be the dark matter that makes up much of the mass of the universe.

Somehow, dark matter particles got anthropomorphized into “a weak, cowardly or unadventurous person,” a source of derision, pity and superiority complex for those who think themselves brave and adventurous. Pretty contemptuous metaphor, eh?

Well, in my autism community, wimps are welcome. To me, wimps are nothing less than tomorrow’s advocates, involved citizens, change-bringers and thought-provokers. They’re an opportunity—I might even say obligation—for all of us to help someone grow and do better, and thus become better ourselves.

Wimps are welcome in my world because we all came from a spot on the spectrum where we knew nothing about autism. Not so long ago, we all had our moment of not knowing who to turn to, who would understand, who would support and point the way. Some of us, myself included, lean heavily on those who know more than we do. With their help, we rise to parenting our different-needs children to a degree we didn’t know we had within us. Strength of heart grows from desire, determination and perseverance. Inherent strength is enviable, but lack of it doesn’t mean it’s unattainable, nor that it is the only requirement for competent parenthood. We may start out as wimps but we don’t get stranded there.

Wimps are welcome in my world because if we view individuals and families who are without knowledge and support as weak or ineffectual, doesn’t that make them the very people who most need our empathy and assistance?

Go back to the list above of what isn’t for wimps. Did you notice that only two of them, autism and getting older, aren’t choices? Being judgmental of those who don’t share our knowledge, experiences and character-building resources is a choice. Failing to see the perspective of others is a choice. Smug name-calling is a choice.

Wimps are welcome here because then I get to tell them that it’s not necessarily cowardly to be fearful. Sometimes it’s wise. It’s the human condition to be apprehensive about the unknown, and very often it’s reversible with information, encouragement and guidance. If everyone were born all-knowing and fearless, we’d miss out on the process of character-building, one of the most satisfying, fulfilling and mind-expanding aspects of the human experience. We’d miss that liberating moment when we realize that being fearless isn’t the same as being courageous, that any fool can be fearless by simply avoiding the man or woman in the mirror, or by failing to recognize peril. But it takes courage to confront one’s fears, and take them on. I’ve known countless so-called wimps who’ve done just that.

Wimps are welcome here because autism isn’t a choice. Autism is indeed for wimps, and also for people of courage and character far beyond what I’ll ever achieve, and for everyone on the journey in between.  If we want the greater community to step up and make a welcoming place for our kids, we can start by first making room in our hearts and communities for all who have landed on the spectrum.


© 2016 Ellen Notbohm
Contact the author for permission to reproduce in any way
Photo: WavebreakmediaMicro | Dollar Photo Club

Response to “I think my dad is on the spectrum”

My last newsletter drew heartfelt response:

“ . . . a letter I could have written.  I discovered the same thing, with my mom, when I began to see similarities in the behaviors of my son and mom.  I have chosen to love and understand as well.”

“When my son was diagnosed and I was filling out all the questionnaires I kept thinking, my husband does that.  So I knew he on the spectrum as well.   Knowing this has straightened our marriage.  I still get annoyed at some of his ‘stuff’ (but) better understand the ‘why’ now.  Also I am able to help my son better understand his dad and the world.”

“Thank you so much for that incredible correspondence regarding adult spectrum diagnosis and family response!”

“Definitely shed some tears reading this.”

“Incredible resonance.”

If you missed “I think my dad is on the spectrum,” read it here.

On my Pinterest memes board


Follow my Pinterest boards for new pins to share each week, or browse my other boards of book reviews, articles, interviews and translations.

New this month:

Rx for autism know-it-alls
The only fair and relevant basis of comparison
♪♫ Perspective. Huh. Yeah. What is it good for? Absolutely everything. Say it again … ♪♫ ♪♫



On my blog:

  • Why autism awareness is not enough
  • Alike, not less: 50 ways your child with autism is like all children
  • Child with autism will not, does not, never listens? Ask this question.
  • “Don’t you ever get totally frustrated and lose it?”
  • Autism classroom conundrum: “Her classmates give in to her to avoid meltdowns.”
  • What our children with autism teach us, in six words or less
  • Autism parenting: Handing off the marathon metaphor
  • Autism misconceptions for smarties
  • “Autistic tantrum?” No such thing as “no reason.”