Revised Answer to Autistic v Typical Child
My husband thinks I am wrong to 'expect so much' from her. I think that she's very intelligent and that I would be failing her if I just said 'she has autism' every time….
Am I in the wrong? Am I damaging her by treating her like a typical kid?Here's the new, improved answer: No.
It is unlikely you are damaging any child with a disability by trying to treat that child as much like other children as possible. I should include a dozen caveats and warnings, but most are commonsense. Some disabilities do limit what we can do, but not what we can accomplish.
We "mainstream" students in special education because we know that separate is not equal, because the experiences of students in a "special" class do differ from the experiences of students in a "normal" class situation. "Normal" simply means the average experience, the standard experience of the majority. If you don't learn how to deal with the standard experiences of daily life, you are at a distinct disadvantage as an adult.
You cannot learn how to navigate social settings without experience those settings. You cannot learn social "norms" without observing those norms and being asked to follow the rules appropriate to each settings.
Some children, teens, and adults will not master the rules for all contexts. We must appreciate there are limits to what some individuals can master, socially, emotionally, and intellectually. There are social skills and emotional skills I will not master. However, I wouldn't know my weaknesses without experiencing those deficits. You don't know what you can or cannot do without trying -- and then you adapt accordingly to accomplish goals.
My parents exposed me to Cub Scouts, Little League, and a local chess club. Though I received external supports from a "resource specialist" in elementary school, and did use "independent study" several times in high school, for the most part I was among peers. No, it didn't always go smoothly, but social settings don't always go well for "normal" people either.
I encourage parents to avoid coddling, babying, protecting, sheltering, or whatever else you want to call the impulse. Your disabled child will experience the joys and disappointments, just like most humans. The experiences will be different, yes, but they are valuable experiences dealing with the world.
The rules do not change for autistic people: the law is the law, ethical guidelines are still enforced at work and school, and social norms remain in place. People might tolerate the mistakes and misunderstandings related to autism or another cognitive disability, but we do not tolerate blatant and knowing misbehavior.
Too many of the autistic teens and young adults I meet have been allowed to do whatever they want and use "autism" as an excuse. Sure, they are a minority of the high-functioning population, but you can be "autistic" and still be a troublemaker. It isn't as if "autism" elevates a teen above the problems of other teenagers. Teenagers, with or without autism, often ignore or fail to anticipate the consequences of their actions. But, they do have to learn there are consequences.
So, no… you are not going to break, damage, or emotionally scar most children or teens with a disability by trying to be consistent as a parent. You do have to consider the individual nature of the child -- but you must do that with any child. No two children are alike. I suggest being cautious, mainly because the autistic child or teen does perceive the world and emotions differently. My parents soon realized that Cub Scouts was not a good "fit" for me. There are plenty of young men for whom scouting isn't a match. No major harm done.
Only the parents and support professionals familiar with a child can decide what is an appropriate way to adapt parenting methods to that individual child. What's really impressive is how resilient most children are.