Child Protection for the Autistic Child - A Resource
FIERCE "having or displaying a violent or ferocious aggressiveness" "showing a heartfelt and powerful intensity"
Generally in my life I’ve avoided conflict. I’ve been able to persuade, negotiate, find different routes to the same end, come to terms with or leave to avoid confrontation.
That changed when I started looking for help and found little by way of understanding, support or expertise in places where you'd expect to find them. Because I had’ent looked for help earlier often no-one believed there was a problem or if they did, they treated me as though I were the problem or their problem would go away if I went away. I met many 'gatekeepers' and few 'helpers'. I became very desperate and I could see that none of my old strategies were working.
I realised something needed to change about my approach. I become very fierce when professionals said ‘‘No sorry, cannot help,’’ and I started to challenge “It is your job, your service's responsibility to help and this is not good enough. You have a duty of care ” or “Sorry, not taking ‘No’for an answer.” and sometimes even ‘’You may not want to talk to me, but if you do not, then you will have to talk to my powerful friend’’.
The cost of fierceness is high when you are not naturally a fighter. When you are parent to a child with vulnerabilities, the worry never really goes away even in the good times, you have to learn to deal with it because if a terrible time comes, it feels as though you are fighting for your child’s life and that struggle is killing you too. In the battle, careers and close relationships can be lost. Living like this for any length of time will destroy your own mental and physical health and you are little use to anyone then.
Sadly I now know I'm often in the equivalent of a board game with professionals.There are rules of engagement in this game I've found myself in, that I have had to learn to play to survive. Ladders and snakes are hidden where you least expect them. Nothing is ever personal, apparently. From a professional’s perspective, I realise my capacity for fierceness can make me very difficult to deal with. I am not fierce for myself but I will do whatever is necessary to ‘do right’ by my child often with very few tools to hand. You’d only expect that of me, when you think about it.
The good news is, I’m not looking for someone to make everything right as though anyone is owed a life without struggle or challenge. I would question what sort of person you would be, if you lived that life and I doubt many do. I realise when I’m in a room full of professionals that after the meeting or event, most go home to another world, often with children, whereas I go home to a wardrobe with clothes left behind by someone who is present as an absence and that is not anyone’s fault nor fixable for me.
I can see most strategies designed to somehow deny the reality of my lived experience, 'manage' me and my expectations, a mile off and I have experience of dealing with these often by challenging directly. If as a professional you portray me and families like mine as 'living chaotic lives', ‘to blame’, ‘difficult’, ‘resistant’ or ‘superficially complaint’, 'challenging', in need of an 'early intervention'' or in similarly derogatory terms without as much as leaving your office and entering my world, then I think you should look very closely at how much you understand about the lives of the people you want to help. I don’t believe any professional whose job is helping children and families is likely to find answers to complex problems in complex situations without real and potentially uncomfortable engagement with the desperate and ‘fierce’.