Monday, November 18, 2013

Autism is an identity and a comfort

Written by Mitchell Wilson of 

So today is the “This Is Autism” flash blog in response to Autism Speaks’ dreadful summit seeking a national plan for Autism.  Please look this up and learn how frighteningly wrong it is.  I’m pretty sure this is the first such event to take place since I became involved in the online Autistic community so I’m going to do my best to write something.  I’m not going to talk a lot about my own experiences because I’m not sure how to go about that.  I was bullied a lot in elementary school, both by students and staff, but most of my that time is kind of a blur so it’s not something I can go into in great detail.  Instead I’m going to talk about what Autism currently is for me as a member of the Autistic community.  For me Autism is an identity and a comfort.  It’s incredibly comforting to know that you are not alone and that there are wonderful people like you who are willing to stick up for members of the community day after day.  While the community is a comfort being part of a marginalized group is not comforting and for this reason being Autistic can be very frightening.  But this is not because of Autism itself but because of the society we live in, a society that Autism Speaks directly contributes to.  We live in a society where Autistic people are denied medical treatment, are subjected to abusive therapies and are frequently murdered or abused by parents and caregivers.  Just this year several attacks like this have occurred, the ones getting the most press being the murder of Alex Spourdalakis and the attempted murder of Issy Stapleton.  Both of these incidents received heavy press coverage and in both cases it was sympathetic to the murderer and attempted murderer.  These are hate crimes, the victims were attacked specifically because they were Autistic people.  Autistics will not walk a mile in the murderer’s shoes when no one will walk a mile in the Autistic person’s shoes.  Those Autistic people who stand up for themselves and others on the spectrum on a daily basis face verbal abuse regularly, often from parents of Autistic children.  Just the other day I was accused by a parent of faking because I did not look Autistic and wasn’t suitably ashamed of my disability.  If we are capable of advocating for ourselves than we are not real Autistics or not disabled enough to count, even when the people doing the advocating are non verbal and disabled to the point that they require caretakers to help them with basic tasks.  As someone who can pass for Neurotypical discrimination against Autistics doesn’t directly impact my real life on a daily basis.  But it does impact the lives of thousands of people like me and that hurts.  Last night I had a dream in which I helped the family members of an Autistic child better understand him.  They listened and appreciated the insights I could offer about what it was like to be Autistic.  They respected me.  This was a good dream.