April is Autism Awareness Month. The first thing you need to be aware of is that organizations like Autism Speaks aren’t helping autistic people. They’re harming them. We’ll get to that in a minute. First, I’d like to make you aware of some things.
- I don’t have a formal diagnosis, but it’s 99.998% certain your humble blogger is autistic. I’ve done a bunch of assessments for autism overall and how women (girls) present as autistic, and everything comes back as “Whelp, you’re autistic as fuck. Congratulations!”
- Note I say I am autistic. Not “I have autism.” Nor “I am a person with autism.” That’s because it’s not a disease or a disability (except insofar as the world isn’t built to accommodate autistic people). It’s the way my brain processes the world. Those personality quirks that make me the unique me that I am? The vast majority come from me being autistic AF.
- I don’t want to be cured. I like my autistic self just fine, thank you. So when you say you want to find a cure for autism, it sounds an awful lot like you’re saying you want to erase me and my autistic friends.
That last one’s pretty shocking, right? I mean, we all hear about how horrible and disabling autism is. Pitiable parents appear on television, blogs, and in glossy magazine articles talking about how their bright and beautiful babies suddenly became aloof aliens. No eye contact, no hugs, no words, no love! Meltdowns! Delays! My kid is a lemon and I want my money back! Oh, and it was probably because of vaccines. My abnormal psych book had a whole section devoted to how you could only maybe rescue an autistic kid from a life of certain complete dysfunction and probable institutionalization by devoting yourself full-time to rescuing them. Otherwise, they’d spend all their lives unable to even wipe themselves after taking a shit.
Who wouldn’t want a cure for that terrible disease?
(PS: I assumed I wasn’t autistic for over 40 years because my life wasn’t the empathy-devoid wasteland these folks assured me it should be.)
Only it’s not as bad as all that.
Autistic brains just process things differently from non-autistic brains. A good number of our “disabilities” aren’t so disabling once people make allowances for that fact. Like, if you don’t insist on us making eye contact all the time, we can connect and converse just fine. If you let us do our stims, we won’t melt down so much. If you listen to us, we can tell you just what we need to thrive.
You can even listen to those of us who can’t speak. Technology allows that to happen. Just because a person can’t speak doesn’t mean they don’t have plenty to say.
So, at the end of this post, you’ll find a list of blogs and organizations that will tell you more about autism, what autistic people need, and how you can be a good ally. Now we’ll talk about one way to definitely not be a good ally: Continue reading “For Autism Awareness Month, Listen to Autistic People”