Originally published at Life as a Double Minority
Suzanne Wright, co-founder of Autism Speaks, would like you to think that Autism is a tragedy. In her recent post on the Autism Speaks blog, she spoke about Autism as a crisis and compared us to children who are missing or gravely ill. She said that parents of Autistic children live in despair, that they're not really living. This is the picture of Autism that she is trying to paint. And it is wrong. This is NOT Autism. Autism doesn't mean that we're lost. It doesn't mean that we're gravely ill. It doesn't mean despair and hopelessness. It doesn't mean we're helpless individuals who can't communicate or do anything for ourselves. This is wrong.
Let me tell you what Autism is to me, an Autistic adult.
Autism keeps me young. Yes, I grow older in years, but I haven't lost the childlike joy that most of my NT friends no longer fully possess. I get excited about things in a way that allistic people can't understand. Sometimes it's hard to have more intense emotions, but when it comes to joy and happiness, and when it swirls inside me, full to the point of bursting, I wouldn't trade it for anything.
Autism keeps me focused. My intense obsessive interests have often been very beneficial. They usually revolve around issues of social psychology, and my ability to hyperfocus helped me excel in college. I love learning, and although I wouldn't go so far as to say that I'm smarter than my friends, I will say that my Autistic ability to hyperfocus has helped me develop a vast knowledge base.
Autism keeps me honest. The longer I live the more I realize that allistic people aren't typically very honest. They sugarcoat things and try to tell you what they think you want to hear. We need more honesty and authenticity in our society. No more hiding under half truths and white lies. My Autistic passion for truth and accuracy adds a freshness and clarity to the world that I think is invaluable.
Autism keeps me sensitive. I think it is the sensitive people, the ones who perceive and notice and feel the most, who are the real movers and shakers. I might process things slower and feel things more keenly, but this deliberate sensitivity keeps me in touch with the world. I notice things others miss. I intuit feelings people thought they had hidden. My Autistic senses help me connect with people and help me move for change.
Autism keeps me hopeful. I know that there are some Autistic people who are cynical. But the part of Autism that keeps me young also lets me see the best in people and helps me hope for the best in all circumstances. Some people call it naivety and say it's a bad thing, and that I need to grow up and get "street smart". But I call it hope and say it's beautiful.
This is Autism. This is childlike joy. This is focus and knowledge. This is honesty and authenticity. This is sensitivity and perception. This is hope and beauty.
Autism Speaks, you don't speak for us. There is no tragedy. There is no crisis. We know the goodness and beauty of Autism, and we will continue to proclaim it.