I want to preface this passage by saying that anything done to help autistics live better lives is a great thing. Honestly, truly, and deeply, there is nothing better than having people on my side, and I am sure many people similar to me feel the same way. And of course this is how I feel, nothing more.
Every day I see posts about autism...and lately, it's beautiful with all the posts from those with autism speaking about it, including myself. But on the flip side, there is just as much nastiness.
And seriously, what's with all this stuff about a cure?
My autism isn't a disease!
But, you can be damn sure plenty of people see it as one, and want to eradicate it.
That's what needs to end -- the search for a “cure” for all autism. Because, let’s be honest, when there are talks about curing autism, it just isn’t the autism that leaves a person unable to speak, care, or fend for themselves; the desire to cure is to get rid of all autism no matter where the person is on the spectrum.
Yes, there are some people — especially parents of those on the spectrum who are unable to care for themselves or even perform the tasks of daily living — who want a cure, who want to see their children able to brush their teeth and use the bathroom and even speak, and I am all for something being done to help these children live better, fuller lives.
But, that is where my and many other’s desire or want for a cure ends.
We are different and we are unwanted by those who refuse to change their beliefs of what constitutes 'normal' human behavior.
And why do people who aren’t autistic automatically think they know what is best for us?
People don’t get it. We don’t see anything wrong with us. We are not the problem, society’s expectations are.
I asked myself, why are we the ones who are expected to adapt and fit in, and I came up with an answer.
It’s because it’s easier to expect everyone to follow certain guidelines and rules and life paths, than it is to have to work with other people in their comfort zone in any capacity. But this goes for anyone who is different, who doesn’t “fit the mold” of what society thinks a “normal” life consists of.
Humans are selfish beings. We want things our way, and autistics are no different in that regard, except a lot of our needs are unavoidable.
Many of us are seen as “disabled” or “limited” and yet, we’re a group that society overall doesn’t make actual accommodations for. People with physical limitations aren’t told to “get over it” but those of us with neurological — and therefore, unchangeable — differences are not given the same courtesy.
Instead, we’re supposed to get counseling and therapy and gain coping ‘tools’ in our arsenal to deal with outings and unexpected situations. We’re supposed to take social skills classes and learn how to communicate with the same Neurotypical people who treat us awfully in the first place because we’re different.
We’re expected to fix our issues and fit in better before going on to have full-time jobs making good money, learn to drive, have successful social lives, and get married and have children, just like everybody else. Only we’re not like everybody else and we never will be, but it doesn't mean we can't want the same things either.
Society teaches that one way is the right way and anyone who is different needs to bend. Fall in line, be a good student, be a good worker, get married, have a family, blah blah blah.
At work, in every day life, plenty of people look askance at those who don't 'fit the mold' of what is expected or what that person sees as proper. People are judged and condemned, simply for being themselves, for not doing things the 'right way' and often fall through the cracks of the system which isn't meant for outliers.
"Fit in or fuck you" is the message I've received loud and clear, and I know many others who feel they're treated the same way.
And those who don't 'fit in' to what is 'normal' in life? Well, people tout them as failing to take "personal responsibility" when things aren't going well and accuse those as "making excuses" because so-and-so did it, so therefore, everybody else can too. This is an unsound argument - how many things can't you do that somebody else can? Tell me, are you not a football player simply because you aren't trying hard enough to become one? What about a doctor? Is the reason you're not "doing it all" simply because you're too lazy to try?
Of course not! That's fucking absurd, right?
That's how the world sees me though, especially when I haven't managed to become the "productive adult" I'm expected to be. Why?
Because it’s easier to believe us failures, to see our quirks as impediments to the workplace, and our emotional outbursts as negativity that must be quashed at all costs.
Except you know what we actually are?
We’re true to ourselves. When we finally realize there is nothing wrong with us other than in the eyes of society, that’s when we’ll truly realize our potential. When we’re allowed to twirl and jump and speak our minds no matter where we are, when we’re free from the limits of a day job that forces us to sustain an unsustainable sleeping schedule for our bodies, that’s when we’ll excel.
And all the good intentions in the world to help us fit in aren’t helping because in order to do that, we have to lock away the things that make us beautiful.
Society is so focused on what causes autism and how to fix us, they don’t see the destruction they're causing, how they are trying to erode and obliterate us instead of understanding us.
And yet, I am not a puzzle to be solved. I’m not something that needs dissecting and examined.
I am a person with neurological differences, but under all that, I am a human who deserves respect. A human who wants love and a family and a fulfilling life as much as many others do.
We are beautiful and exceptional and loving. We are your friends, your siblings, your partners, your co-workers, and more.
And underneath that, we’re all different. Some will excel at living a “normal” looking life and they are happy with that, but there are many who won’t reach that level, that have limits they cannot exceed.
Ask yourself honestly, what is so wrong with being different? And if you find yourself saying that you don’t think there is anything wrong with being different, really ask yourself if that is true.
Do you rush to judgment?
Do you look at a kid screaming or throwing a fit in the store and think how that person needs to shut their kid up, or take parenting classes, or about how you could get that kid to behave if you were the parent? Do you get annoyed when someone fidgets or moves their body in an awkward way that doesn’t fit with the public place you’re in, or if you see a grown person twirling or jumping or doing something “odd” in a public place?
When someone doesn’t automatically act in a way you find appropriate, do you believe them stupid or lacking manners? If you try to explain something verbally once or twice or even three times, and the person asks more questions, do you start to believe the person is incompetent or shouldn’t be working at their job?
If you ask a person a question and they simply stare at you, perhaps blinking rapidly but not speaking, would you assume they didn’t hear you? Would you speak slower as if you thought this would suddenly make them respond to you? Do you find a person dumb when you ask them a question and the way they answer isn’t exactly what you are expecting from the question?
Is there someone in your life who, when you ask a simple question, goes into a spiel about something that seems completely unrelated after giving you a short answer to what you’ve asked? Are you frustrated by telling someone to do something and feeling as if they are ignoring you because they didn’t do it? Ever gotten annoyed with someone who you give instructions to find something, only to have to find it yourself because they couldn’t find it even though you only told them where it was, but not specifically enough?
These are all things I’ve personally experienced and let me tell you, most of them are embarrassing for both me and the person perpetuating them against me.
Of course, someone doesn’t have to be autistic to do any of these things, but can you imagine this sort of behavior on a daily basis? Not on the receiving end. but to actually be this way your whole life and unable to do anything about it.
How many people — adults, specifically — out there are just like me, but haven't been diagnosed? Can you imagine how hard life is for these people who don't know they are autistic, and the kind of ignorance they have to deal with on a daily basis? The same kind of crap I had to deal with for years from people who simply thought me stupid and useless despite my high intelligence?
How many people are hurting from those who treat them badly over something they can't help...and why are we okay with treating others like they are less just because they don't perform like a 'normal' person does?
Why does there need to be autism acceptance and not simply awareness?
Because awareness is standing there next to an autistic person and knowing we are autistic…and that’s it. Awareness is pointing at a group of autistic people and saying, “they are autistic!” and thinking that’s all it takes for change to arrive in how we’re treated.
It's not helping us get a job, or live better lives, or assisting us with those things we can't do on our own. It's not getting rid of the idea that the only reason people don't succeed is because of a character flaw, of an inability to take 'personal responsibility' for their lives.
Because that's bullshit.
"Failure" in the eyes of society has many more factors than just one person's individual behavior.
No, we don’t need your awareness. Everyone knows autism exists and until everybody accepts autism, accommodate those who are autistic, and help autistics build lives with what strengths they have instead of focusing on everything they can't do, the world will keep having these problems.
Isn't it time things change for the better, for everyone...autistic or not?
If so, I hope you will work with me in making this happen, one kindness at a time!
Until next time,