Confession: I dress my daughter extra cute so people will like her.

I never thought I would do anything of the kind. I grew up loathing the superficial judgements society made. If they couldn’t judge me on my character, then their judgements meant nothing. But now I have an autistic daughter. A daughter who acts in unexpected ways; and that makes “normal” people uncomfortable. It’s a cynical but no less true fact that people in general like and are nicer to people who are attractive looking.

Yes, some of the dress up is to help keep her from pulling her diaper down; though she’s starting to figure out how to get around that. And the bows in the hair help hide the hair problem. But even before that was a consideration I was putting her in cute outfits and pretty dresses with bows in her hair. And it works. People smile at her and ignore behavior that I doubt they would ignore in a boy. “What a pretty dress she has!” or “What a cute coat!” gives them something nice they can say as she paces and stims. I chose that coat over the other one that looked warmer, but not as pretty.

I want to live in a world where strangers can delight in her obvious joy as she waves her hands in front of her eyes. Where her happy trilling testing out the acoustics of a new place makes them appreciate the unusual acoustics, too. I kind of hate myself for using her gender to her advantage when others do not have the same option. But in a world that’s stacked against her neurotype, I’m going to use this until her character isn’t so easy to overlook.

Edited to add: we are fortunate in that Lady Bug does not have any sensory issues with clothing and actually likes poofy dresses with tulle. I would not force her to wear them if they made her uncomfortable.

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