I know that I should be able to get this post done on time this year! Things have been happening to try to make that not occur, but it is March 15 and pen is on the paper. Just a couple of weeks later than expected. We are dealing with many health issues in our house right now. Some are being assessed and treated and others aren’t.
Anyway, it is Autism Acceptance Day/Month. Are autistics accepted and allowed to be themselves yet? The answer is still no.
What will it take for autism to stop being vilified? Why is it so wrong to have a different neurology than the majority of people? We’d be so boring if the human race all had the same type of brain and nothing would get done. With different brains, we have thinkers, doers, creators, and more. Everyone, including autistic people, has a part in the world’s functioning.
Our different autistic brains make our bodies move in different ways. Some of us have more obvious differences in our movements, while others don’t or they can mask them. My body and brain don’t always cooperate. Many times, it is with larger motor movements, like trying to copy what to do in my physiotherapy class. Other times, it is smaller muscle movements, like in my face. My face does not show the ‘appropriate’ facial expressions. It gets me into trouble, because people think I’m mad or being mean based on my face, instead of asking me what I am really feeling. Another example is having pictures taken. I had the opportunity to have my picture taken at an event and I chose not to, even though I wanted to. Partly because I didn’t want to interfere in something my son was involved in and partly because I can’t make my face do a ‘picture face’. It was disappointing, but I didn’t see any point in wasting people’s time and then also having to explain the problem. It is a problem that can be gotten around but it can take a bit of work on another person’s part, which I am not comfortable in asking them to do.
As you can see there are challenges in being autistic but does that make autism a bad thing in need of a cure? Non-autistic people have challenges too. Should they be cured of not being autistic or should they be allowed to be themselves?
Accepting autism means accepting the bad, the good, and the great parts of it. Autistic people are just as human as non-autistic people and we deserve and are entitled to the same rights.
I experienced my first taste of true acceptance this past year and I wrote about it here, and here. It was a workshop designed to also be safe for autistic people. I didn’t feel judged for having someone else read what I wanted to say. I wasn’t ignored either. I was given my space and also helped as needed. I felt like I belonged for the first time ever.
Usually, I am non-speaking in groups and in public. If I can speak, I don’t know what to say or how to say it, so I come across as anti-social. I’m not trying to be rude when I sit there not talking, I actually can’t. If someone takes the time to talk one-on-one, I can manage a bit, depending on topic. Those people usually escape as soon as someone more able comes along for them to talk to.
I know I ramble and end up off topic when I write. So here is the main point. It is time to accept autistics as we are and not try to change or erase us. This means allowing us to stim, giving us means to communicate which work for us, not punishing or making fun of our movement differences, asking instead of assuming what our facial expressions and tone of voice mean, allowing us to be on our own if we want, or helping us to interact if we need help. Let us participate in the world in the way we were made to. Give us the accommodations/support we ask for instead of trying to make us do things the way non-autistic people do in the ‘real world’. We all live in the same world together and each of us experiences the ‘real world’. We aren’t fictional characters and are therefore just as real as the next person.
It is time for autistic people to be fully accepted as is, not what someone else wants us to be!
The video below is Twisted Sister's We're Not Gonna Take It (parent/child interaction in the beginning may be triggering for some).