Sometimes I cringe: Leaning into my discomfort

Leaningin2.jpgSometimes I read something that I’ve written long ago – and I  cringe. Sometimes I am tempted to change a few words to reflect what I know now.

But there is a usefulness to this. It is a way of tracking how I have shifted my thinking and expanded my understanding.

Recently I shared:

My daughter is now almost 20 – so this post is close to 2 years old. Things may have changed a bit in the last two years. I can only imagine and hope that they would have… I know my perspective is always shifting and changing as I learn from my son and from the many Autistic adults with whom I have the privilege of connecting. I read back and there are words I would change here and there (in many of my posts) – to shift the nuance and reflect what I know now. I am reluctant to do that though. I think it is better to show the journey and the progression of understanding on my own part… This post is a snapshot…. and I think still relevant.

I am a work in progress – and that should not be an excuse… rather it is a commitment.

I have also recently reread writings that have never been posted – and were never intended to be. Some are visceral responses to difficult times or a lack of understanding toward my boy or others about whom I care. Sometimes my writing is raw and unpolished – and I write for me… it is a release – that is the function. Not everything is for public consumption.

It is through this looking back and through my interactions with Autistic adults that I am coming to be aware that my own ableism colours my perception. I am really trying to see – to understand – to tear off another layer of my prejudice.

I am willing to dig into this. I have to be… so I can be a part of making things different – better. I have to understand how ableism has been socialized into me so seamlessly – so that I have been unaware of its existence.

I ado not identify as Autistic… I haven’t lived harshly so judged by the world – so this has been hiding in unexamined places in this privileged perspective of mine and I have been unaware. It hits hard – because from an early age I have been raised to be an activist – a champion for human rights – to work to celebrate diversity – to work to shift paradigms and work within systems to bring about positive change – to rail against prejudice and injustice.

When I begin to peel back the layers here… prejudice is not something I expect to find within…

It makes me cringe.

I am uncomfortable… but I will lean into that.

I have to understand and examine this within my being: if I can see it and deal with it within – I will be better able to understand it and work to be a part of effectively and passionately changing it in the world.

This othering...

It is insidious… it is sneaky… I want to take a broom and sweep it away – beat the bushes and flush it out – have it gone. It is present though – in shadowed places: places that I might not examine closely – because I think I know what is there. There are things that have always been – ways of being and seeing that I have not questioned, but I am beginning to see and to understand that I need to question and examine. I cannot unsee and I do not want to. I am willing to examine my assumptions… question my truth… lean into my own discomfort … admit my mistakes.

I want to be able to proclaim, “See – I am cleansed – I have rid myself of all my ableist and privileged attitudes!” because this reflects who I want to be. But I am not there…


I am a work in progress – and that is not an excuse for my lack of understanding… rather it is a commitment to continue to listen carefully to what Screen shot 2013-04-13 at 7.29.06 PMAutistic people are saying about their experience and to work to understand and support their perspective.

I commit to this and I invite you to do so as well.

Here are some of the writings/communication by Autistic adults that have had the greatest impact on my on my parenting and my practice. Some of these have nudged me to greater understanding, some have illuminated aspects of the experience of being autistic, and all are good resources.

Quiet Hands – by Julia Bascom

The Third Glance– By E

Challenging the Usual Concept of Independence Non-speaking Autistic Advocate on Myths Surrounding Disability and Independence – by Amy Sequenzia

Autistic Behaviour has a Purpose… or How Being a Social Skills Holdout Resulted in a Richer Life – by gareeth

‘Not that Autistic’ – By

Being an Unperson (Video) – by Amanda Baggs

Don’t Mourn for Us – by Jim Sinclair

In my Language (Video) – by Amanda Baggs

Let the Gown-ups Talk (Poem) and On Failing Kindergarten – by Alyssa

Karla’s ASD Page (Facebook) – by Karla Fisher

I Was A Self-loathing FC Skeptic – by Elizabeth J. (Ibby) Grace

Timer Week  and  Way to Stim Wednesday (Videos) – by Anabellistic

Autistic Publication Pain – by Landon Bryce

*Please note: This list is by no means exhaustive – I invite you to add links to posts that have positively influenced you in the comments section below.


30 Days of Autism is a project designed to fight stigma, promote civil rights, and increase understanding and acceptance for those who process and experience the world differently.

© Leah Kelley, Thirty Days of Autism, (2013)

About Leah Kelley, Ed.D.

Leah Kelley, M.Ed, Ed.D., Writer, Consultant, Activist, Speaker, and Educator, working with Teacher Candidates at UBC. Authors blog: 30 Days of Autism. Projects support social understanding, Neurodiversity paradigm, Disability Justice, and connecting Disability Studies in Education(DSE)to Educational Practice. Twitter: @leah_kelley Facebook: 30 Days of Autism: Leah Kelley
This entry was posted in ableism, acceptance, Aspergers, Autism, being wrong, Big sister, diversity, handling discomfort, Neurodiversity, perspective of others, prejudice, privilege and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to Sometimes I cringe: Leaning into my discomfort

  1. Emma says:

    Thanks for your honesty Leah, it is appreciated


  2. Hannah says:

    I would change things often.
    But you are right it is better to let the journey speak for itself and commit to learning and being open to challenge
    xxxx and thanks as always


  3. Kerima Cevik says:

    I loved the list of titles impacting your life and this post overall. It went on my Pinterest board for Autism I hope many others take the time to read the entire post and all of the referenced articles as well.


  4. Leah Kelley says:

    Thanks Kerima… I appreciate that very much.
    I hope people will take the time to let these articles, etc, resonate. I am also hoping others will link up articles/video/communication that have influenced them as well.


  5. Ib Grace says:

    Moral bravery is something we don’t talk a lot about. We should. If we did, your name would come up as a shining example…when you feel yourself cringe, you lean in. Much love.


  6. Leah Kelley says:

    ((Ibby)) Thank you… I appreciate you.

    The thing is though… I am supported in my leaning in by wonderful people like you. It is much easier to dig in to the difficult things that may make me cringe, because have others willing to listen as I bounce around my learnings, give me a nudge when it is needed, and share their perspective in an open and caring and oh-so-patient way.


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