Today is World Autism Day. Today, many people have participated in “Light it Up Blue”. I am not one of them.
Please do not misunderstand. I am not trying to ignore autism. I am not trying to say acknowledgment of autism and the move toward greater awareness is a bad thing.
But you are not my friend if you participate KNOWINGLY in an event that was created by an organization who portrays autistic people as burdens, who for a long time were very anti-vaccine in their rhetoric, who have filmed a then-member of their board talking about her thoughts about killing her autistic child and herself (but didn’t because her NT child needed her), and who silences autistic people, removing the very mention of us from our own stories, because clearly, portraying us as capable would ruin the image they are attempting to portray of us. This organization, of course, is Autism Speaks. If you don’t know the detailed reasons why they do not speak for many autistic people, please read my link here.
Today isn’t a very pleasant day for me. I was, thankfully, spared from much of the Light it Up Blue hoopla. I apparently do well in choosing my Facebook friends, for the most part. But I had a few moments that brought me to unwelcome tears. One of those was a longtime friend of mine (not a very close friend, but still a friend) posting information for another friend about curing autism with essential oils and how antidepressants in pregnancy cause autism. I was hurt, amd how do you explain that? How do you explain “this is hurtful because you believe my neurotype is inferior and needs to be fixed rather an accepted” when you think it should be self explanatory?
The truth of the matter is, I shouldn’t have to. I shouldn’t have to explain that, and anyone who brushes me off as an angry autistic, well, yes, you’re right. But it gets tiring defending my right to exist and be treated like a human being. This goes for many other forms of oppression, too, so please don’t believe that I think this is exclusive to autism. It absolutely is not.
If I were to write a letter to the world about what World Autism day is about for me, this is what I would say.
We have always been here among you. Please do not fear the increase in diagnoses because of advances in medical care. We are not scary, and we are different, but we are no less worthy of love and understanding. We deserve to exist and to be accepted for who we are. We need access to medical care of our choosing. We need a voice that belongs to us, not our parents, caretakers, teachers or therapists. Listen to us. We may not all speak your language. We aren’t a monolith. Pay attention. And learn.