I love how many voices of Autism are getting out there, aside from Autism Speaks. I love that it’s not just parents of autistic children any more, but also autists — both children and adults — themselves. I love that, slowly, this is teaching more people to step outside of their own experience and really consider the different things that autism has, does, will, and can mean to people living with it.
There is, however, something tangential to this which really gets on my nerves.
I see it all the time. Someone posts a link to a blog post or article written, either directly by an autist or otherwise showcasing their perspective. Occasionally, this even happens with something posted from the perspective of the caretaker. It goes viral — or at least what passes for viral within the special needs communities. People are touched by these insights into how the person thinks, what they feel, their wishes for how it’s all dealt with. And then, it happens. A whole lot of people whip themselves up into a frenzy, desperate to prove their empathy, their compassion, their education, etc., by immediately changing what they think, how they feel, and how they go about dealing with and advising others to tackle….all of it….in a blanket sort of way.
It’s like there is this ironic reflex to respond to someone’s ability to speak for themselves, by subconsciously giving them beyond their due consideration when it comes to speaking for “everyone else” that “they represent”.
Guess what? They represent THEMSELVES. However many others do or don’t feel as they do about any given element of things, for the same or different reasons….they are still one person, and the whole bloody POINT of Autism being a SPECTRUM disorder is that ONE PERSON IS NOT EVERYONE. You know, just like in the world of those who don’t have Autism. Shocking, really, I know.
Yes, please, take what they have to say into consideration, especially when it comes to those who cannot speak for themselves. Consider that it is the reality of one, no doubt the reality of many more, and it might be the reality of others. Have conversations, watch videos, read books, read blogs, go to cons….collect awareness. But do not confuse broadening perspective, even refining perspective, with replacing perspective over and over again. If you already know someone who feels very strongly that they, “Have Autism,” as opposed to, “Being autistic,” then do not start referring to them as being autistic just because you’ve read a more recent, or to your mind better-written post BY SOMEONE ELSE, which explains their rather opposite rationale and sentiments. Or, if one parent say, “I really wish people would do this,” but another parent says, “Good grief, why can’t people just do that,” well, sure, it complicates figuring out what to do, but you might just have to consider that one or the other — or yet another course of action — might be the best way to help, or at least not hurt them. One experience does not invalidate another. Such experiences can include the exact form of autism someone has, combined with the exact form of anything else they have, combined with their personality and more purely physical health, combined with their life circumstances. Such experiences can include the things that happen to them during their life. Such experiences can also include what they think and how they feel about any of it. This issue comes up a lot, especially between –sadly — what might be thought of as the “high functioning” and “low functioning” camps (of course, some don’t like those distinctions at all). I think people need to make a conscious effort to take their awareness of these contradictions to the next level, though….and REALLY keep in mind that Autism, just like anything else, does not make one person’s truth, that of another.
No matter how you, anyone else, or they classify themselves.