Build Boundaries, not Resilience

There’s a common saying by professionals that children need to “build resilience” in order to cope in the world. When there appears to be progress for an Autistic child in school after receiving access to supports and adjustments, the mindset of professionals is to begin removing these supports to ‘increase independence’. Fading these supports only further disables the children and sends them the message that their needs do not matter.

The child is denied what makes them safe and as a result they experience more trauma. Growing up, so many of us hear things like “The noise and smells in the room are not that bad. They’ll get used to it.” A focus on resilience in these contexts fails to understand why a child is struggling in the environment.

Once again, the problems are placed on the child for their sensitivity and they are repeatedly invalidated for this. If someone’s sensory needs makes them unable to enter certain environments, then they cannot just be forced into these settings. Exposure to such places will only deepen the masking response while the overwhelming pain and distress remains buried beneath the surface.

Autistic & otherwise Neurodivergent people are already resilient enough by living in a world that is not designed for us. The systems and services we are placed in can be extremely hostile, yet we end up being forced to comply with these environments for years until we reach a crisis.

What children need to build are boundaries. For them to be able to say no to people or things that are not right for them. To learn who is safe and who they can speak to when there is a problem. To be allowed opportunities to build their self-advocacy skills rather than suppress their natural needs and expression. That way, children can ask for help when they need it & not feel fear of speaking to adults. Having these kinds of boundaries can help Autistic and otherwise Neurodivergent children be safe and protect themselves in their lives.

Building resilience does not need to be a goal for children.

ID: White square in middle of image with text inside. Light blue border is around the square.

Alt text:

“Children do not need to “build resilience” they need to build boundaries & self-advocacy skills.”


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