Someone on another website posted the following statement:
if u try to fix & cure autistic ppl as part of being an ally you are not an ally you are the enemy and we will destroy you
I’m not going to argue the semantics of the statement, and I know that statements like this often devolve into accusations about what is meant by the phrase “destroy you”. I tend to take a non-violent approach, and believe that it means “destroy the ideology behind this” rather than actually harming a person.
What I want to talk about today, though, is a response that someone wrote to this meme-like statement and the explanation that Autism isn’t something that needs to be cure.
actually, it does, to a certain degree. autism does not need to be eradicated, but it needs to be “helped” so that people can live a functional, productive life.
I sat back and read that and thought about the disparities between how people treat autistic (and to a lesser extent, other non-neurotypical) kids and how they treat neurotypical kids.
Referring back to the last statement about how “[autism] needs to be helped so that people can live a functional, productive life”, I find myself baffled by the idea that this is anything other than education in one realm and parenting in another. If your child is allistic or neurotypical, you’re going to teach them right from wrong, how to make friends, how to tie their shoelaces, and any number of other skills that are necessary for “functioning” in the real world. But doing so for an autistic person means therapy and many NT people (like the anonymous person in the quote) is something entirely different and radical?
It’s not. It’s not difficult for me to look at these scenarios and realize that you’re basically doing the same thing. You’re teaching an autistic person, and you’re teaching an allistic person. Why do we continue to stigmatize something that should be an essential part of education and parenting just because the person involved is an autistic one?
I know the reason. It’s ableism. It doesn’t make it right, and that’s one of the many things that needs to change.
I am a former English teacher. I taught for a full year and a few months at different levels (6th-12th grade). I loved it, but it wasn’t the right fit for me for various reasons (many of which were autism-related). I say this to say that I know what educators do, the things that we teach beyond the subject matter. I know that we often modify our lesson plans so that we can reach children who learn differently than the lecture-take notes form of learning (which doesn’t really work for a lot of students anyway). I am very fond of individualized learning, and I know a lot of teachers are, too, because creating different ways of presenting lessons means more kids are interested. Meeting kids at their level means that they’re more interested in what they have to say. When they aren’t treated like they’re automatic failures because they don’t learn like everyone else does (or how they perceive everyone else does), they thrive. I’ve taught disabled kids, I’ve taught immigrant kids who were learning English for the first time at age 12, I’ve taught gifted kids, I’ve taught your average bookworm kid, etc. etc. etc. To me, I don’t see a whole heck of a lot of difference between teaching the bored gifted kid in the way they learn best, and the learning disabled/autistic/ADHD/etc kid in the way they know best.
To me, the only difference is that the IEPs made it easier to know where to start. It gave me a starting point. It’s a little different with parenting, because you don’t know where to start at first. You see your kid’s strength and weaknesses, and as long as you’re ignoring the voices of those that will tell you that your kid is a tragedy (such as Autism Speaks or any other number of sources that make us out to be burdens), you’re going to try and meet your kid where they’re at.
My eldest is struggling academically because of the poor choice to send her to a “top notch autism school” for a year and a half. While they addressed teaching her life skills, they didn’t do very well on focusing on academics, something I failed to grasp at the time. When she left that school and transferred to an exceptional local public school, she had some difficulties. I as a parent am not going to ignore that and just try and expect that she should be doing exactly the same things that her brother is. She lost a whole year and a half of education, and of course she’s going to need some time to catch up with her peers. I’m going to meet her where she’s at, not where I expect she should be at.
It should be simple. Educate your children, regardless of neurotype, in the way they learn best. Prepare them for life as best as you can. Teach them the skills that they need in order to survive. Teach them that they aren’t failures if they don’t live up to their own expectations, or the expectations of their peers. It’s okay to not be able to do something, and to ask for help. Being autistic and having low executive functioning skills does not mean that you’ve failed.