Gaslighting

Gaslighting.

There’s this new word going around that I had no clue what it meant just a couple weeks ago. But, unfortunately, especially in the special needs world, this term or phrase is practiced far too often.

When we hear this term, we often think of healthcare providers shrugging off our worries about our childrens’ development. Or totally redirecting our questions at their wellness checks. 

I can’t even tell you how many times this has happened to us.

Whether they use the excuse that my child is autistic, so this must be such and such, or they assure me that just because my firstborn is autistic, this isn’t always the case with the secondborn. 

Let me tell you that SOMETIMES the “wait and see” approach works. But 9 times out of 10, this should NOT be an option.

I remember basically sobbing on a virtual zoom call with Opal’s pediatrician when she was going through her regression at 2.5. I was expressing our concerns for Opal and that she lost speech, and wasn’t interested in playing much with us anymore, etc. She asked a few questions and said, “Well, I don’t think it’s autism.” Not once did she say she was concerned about her. She didn’t offer blood tests or anything. If this wasn’t autism, wouldn’t it be concerning enough to try to figure out what was wrong? No, because, “let’s just wait and see.”

News flash, Opal IS autistic, and we may have been able to get her diagnosed quicker if our doctor would have just sent in the evaluation earlier.

But this doesn’t just happen with developmental delays or disabilities. I remember telling our pediatrician that Opal is sick ALL the time and asking if there was any way we could do further tests, get a referral for immunology, etc. All she said was that at this time of year, it’s common to get sick and she would talk to Opal’s pediatrician about it. I have not gotten a call.

Gaslighting is when someone basically manipulates you (not always on purpose) and convinces you that your concerns, or whatever ideas you brought to the table just shouldn’t be. This is bullying and it makes you question your judgment and reality. “Wow, I’m so overthinking this.” 

Do you know how many stories I have heard that consisted of healthcare providers gaslighting many autistic or special needs families’ worries and concerns? MANY!

But this isn’t just from the healthcare system. This can happen with family members and friends too. And like I said earlier, people don’t always gaslight others on purpose, but whether it’s accidental or not, it’s not okay.

Your concerns are always valid. In fact, I think momma gut is almost always right. Sometimes we CAN overthink things, but even if we are, is it everyone else’s job to tell us that? No. Listen to our concerns. You may not understand or even try to, but a lot of us mommas know what we’re talking about.

If your friend tells you they think their child is autistic, please don’t tell them, “No! There’s no way!” Instead, ask questions, and be there for your friend and her concerns and worries for her child. And if you are a healthcare provider and reading this, please just listen to our concerns and pleas for our kiddos. We aren’t trying to magically come up with something that must be wrong with our kids. 

Gaslighting needs to stop. It hurts people emotionally and even sometimes physically by ignoring a possible problem. Saying something “must not be so” so let’s “wait and see” does not mean it isn’t.

Published by Life With Opal

I am a pastors wife, kids pastor, and stay at home momma of two- one with Autism! I love writing and sharing my experiences with other people! Raising kids is hard, but I'm here to say, you're not alone!

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