Hillary Krzywkoski: Different, Not Less

I am an emerging writer and artist with a story to tell about my autistic family’s past struggles. My husband and I have faced adversity when in the formative years of building our family, beginning with our marriage and the conception and birth of our first child, marking a years long struggle for parental autonomy, free from bullying and abuse. I have sought healing through my art and writing this last decade, and have entered my narrative into public discourse via the arts. I have been fortunate to have my work circulated recently at the 2017 Ruderman Foundation Inclusion Summit. I am speaking out against abuse of autistic mothers and fathers. Much of the abuse begins on the home front– through our extended familial relationships, to be recognized and respected as a competent and worthy parent, to be allowed to be fertile and strong, to be allowed a legacy. I am speaking out against the abuse of autistic mothers by midwives, OB/GYNs, and other birth workers. Below is the work that was on display at the Inclusion Summit through The Mighty:

These ancestral totem-inspired paintings process my traumatic initiation into parenthood as a disabled Israeli immigrant and abuses during pregnancy, birth, postpartum, and the formative years of parenting autistic children in a culture which assesses autism to be a scourge. I’m visually articulating the chronic, systemic abuses that the majority of Autistic mothers and fathers live with– in the United States, Israel, and elsewhere. I’m seeking a safe space for my family’s unique identities, abilities and neurotype within society where we can also find respect as autistic Jews.

The phrase, “Different, not less” must be applied intersectionally to Autistic gender, sexuality and courtship, fertility, family structure and dynamic, where autistic parents and their autistic children have every right to self-determination, self-exploration, and the fulfillment of a loving and nurturing family life in the pursuit of health and happiness with autonomy and dignity.

“The Burden” :

Utilizing the tarot card format and lyrics from The Carter Family, this text-heavy painting depicts the abuse, bullying, and slander of my young family in our immigrant community following the conception and birth of our first born, and the crisis of having to escape in a short period of time.
The Burden

“Our Spilled Blood Sprouts Flowers”

Near death, hospitalization, and continued attempts to separate us have not broken my bond with my child. In spite of harsh circumstances, flowers bloom from our suffering. Now in safety, the trauma transforms into strength and meaning— a blessing.

Our Spilled Blood Sprouts Flowers

“This Too Shall Pass”

A trauma process piece and a search for inner strength. I paint myself a mother wolf, a protector, stronger than the assassin who pecks and tears at my hide, who’s not able to reach my children who hide beneath my underbelly. The surrounding lunar cycle teaches that there is balance to life and these terrible circumstances cannot endure.

This Too Shall Pass

I hope this can reach other autistic parents and mothers, and make a contribution to what I am learning is a rich history. I hope to contribute to the public understanding that we too are worthy of good lives, full of meaning and purpose.

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