Sunday, April 2, 2017

Humanizing Autism

Typical autism "awareness" does little to shine a light on the very real, very raw humanity of actual autistic people.  We become statistics to memorize, statistics of estimated prevalence data, how much we "cost" society, how many of us have additional conditions such as epilepsy, how many of us are nonspeaking, how many of us have "average to above-average intelligence."  Our humanity is erased in favor of neat, compartmentalized factoids.  With this arrives the exclusion of us from the conversation about ourselves, which, as I shall echo from people who have been doing this much, much longer than I have, is fundamentally antithetical to one of the basic principles of the Disability Rights Movement.

 Autism acceptance is the humanization of autism, because it not only forces one to shift their paradigm regarding how autism is viewed, and in turn, how autistics are viewed, but it actually forces a person to go through the arduous process of gaining our trust.  In a World where we are privy to vices such as bullying, discrimination, segregation, physical and sexual abuse, neglect, and homicide, we need people to see us just as that: human beings, not changelings captured in the midst of the night by an anthropomorphic entity that robbed us of supposedly "normal" childhoods.  

Being autistic is definitely harder.  I don't think any autistic person would deny that.  But demonizing our disability dehumanizes us.  We should be well past that stage of fear, pity, and guilt, but it still runs rampant in most mainstream autism "awareness" campaigns, even if just subtly.  

Want to learn about autism?  See as genuine potential platonic, romantic, and/or professional connections.  Talk to us, even if we do not use verbal speech.  Plenty of us converse in ASL or another sign language, through AAC, through our body language, or a mix of various communication forms.  Collaborate with us on any endeavors that we undertake, but ensure that we are center and front of stage.  Read books, scholarly articles, and essays about the history of the Neurodiversity Movement or the history of the broader Disability Rights Movement.  Reject organizations that do not meaningfully include us in leadership positions with significant executive influence, or only associate with autistics in a patronizing manner.  

 We are everywhere.  It isn't that difficult.