Featured image is of a golden infinity symbol with the phrase “Autism Acceptance” written on it, made by Luan Huynh, found on Google.
It’s “Autism Awareness Month” and I have some things to say.
- We don’t need awareness, we need acceptance. Try “Autism Acceptance Month” instead. And to that effect, if you accept Autism, then you just need to start accepting anything you might consider “weird.” You can’t tell someone is autistic by looking at them or without interacting enough with them to know who they really are. Leave your judgment and assumptions behind.
- Autism is NOT a developmental disability, disorder, condition, or otherwise “illness.” There are MANY co-occurring conditions that can be in the same body as someone who’s autistic, but that does not mean those conditions are Autism. A non-exhaustive list of these conditions: Tourette’s Syndrome, Dyslexia, Dyscalculia, Dyspraxia, Visual Impairments, Gender Dysphoria, Auditory Processing Issues, Sensory Processing Disorder, Synesthesia, Epilepsy, Hyperlexia, Executive Dysfunction, Bi-Polar, OCD, BPD, Aphasia, Apraxia, Echolalia, Aphantasia, Tinnitus, etc.
- Autism IS a neurotype, natural to the range of human diversity. But it is not just a neurotype, it’s literally a whole nervous system. Autistic people, on the whole, receive and process stimuli differently than those who are not autistic. And still, not one autistic person is the same, just as not one neurotypical person is the same.
- Autism Speaks and other organizations who advocate for the use of Applied Behavioral Analysis (ABA) or Positive Behavior Support (PBS)—any organization or institution that preaches about needing a “cure” and supporting research for it too—should NOT be trusted. ABA/PBS is abuse, full stop. There is no cure for autism, full stop. We are not broken, we simply have different support needs. And those support needs do NOT include needing to repress what makes us who we are in order to fit a standard expectation of behavior that harms us.
Oh, and PLEASE drop the blue and puzzle pieces. These symbols were not chosen by the autistic community, and are associated with pathology. DO use the gold infinity symbol, or embrace red as the new acceptance color.
- Phrases like, “You don’t look autistic, I never would’ve known!” or, “Everyone’s a little autistic these days,” or, “I don’t believe you, you’re so good at [insert behavior or task],” are all harmful! All of these phrases invalidate an autistic person’s lived experience and diminishes their issues with living in a neurotypical world.
Autism doesn’t have a “look” or specific lived experience. Like I said, not one autistic person is the same, and it’s ableist to say Autism has a certain “look.” People who claim Autism has a certain “look” are actually misinformed, or purposefully discriminatory towards those who have external differences.
It is natural for some traits to be present across all types of individuals—that is any expectation within the diversity of humanity. Shared traits, however, does not make everyone autistic.
Just because someone can do something well does not mean they are capable of doing something else well. That’s false equivalency, and that kind of assumption is completely unfair. It is frequently the case where autists excel at something we’re passionate about, but when it comes to doing something more mundane, competence is harder to come by. Dismissing our struggles like this is ableist as well. This goes in line with functioning labels. Functioning labels (high or low functioning) are harmful constructs because they deny autists agency and dismiss lived experience. “High functioning” often results in someone suffering greatly behind the scenes (frequently barely functioning), and “low functioning” often pigeon-holes someone into being less than what they’re capable of. Instead, simply talk about support needs, as everyone’s are different.
- It’s important to address autistic people as “autistic” and not “people with autism.” We are not “on the spectrum,” or rather we are, but that’s nothing special, because literally every human is “on the spectrum” (the spectrum of human diversity). Autism cannot be separated out from us, as if it were a handbag we carry. And again, it’s not a disease we need to be cured of. Read here for more information on why identity-first language, instead of person-first, is so important.
Autism enriches the world. We are great thinkers and contributors to our communities. We are innovative, creative, intelligent, funny, positive influences, the list can go on. But we don’t need to contribute or be productive in order to be seen as valid and worthy of love and acceptance, of just being who we are (this goes for *anyone*). We don’t need to be conditioned into something we’re not. We don’t need the world to tell us we have “special needs.” We’re not sick or broken.
It’s time we start looking at the environment in which we’re unfit, instead of looking at the individual like autism is the problem. Why do autistics struggle? Because we don’t fit the mold. Why is there a mold to begin with? We’re all PEOPLE, not clay.
Let’s stop pathologizing neurological differences, and start embracing each other for who we are! Let’s focus on meeting support needs without judgment!
Happy Autism Acceptance Month! Thanks for reading!