Saturday, 11 December 2010

On Respect

1.) Having done a (very informal and unscientific!) poll amongst my online aspie friends and acquaintances, it seems that what we want most from NTs is simple respect. With respect, all things are possible. If NTs interact with us with respect, then they will listen to us, truly hear what we are saying, believe that our experiences and viewpoints are valid (even if they don’t understand them), trust that we know what we are talking about; and generally realize that while we have certain difficulties in life, yes, and need certain types of assistance, yes, we are nonetheless human, essentially more ‘like them’ than ‘other’, that we are ‘different-but-equal’. And we can hear them too; we can be open to their concerns, because dialogue is only possible between equals. 

Without respect, we can only be ’managed’, lectured at, told how ‘deficient’ we are, and how we ‘need’ to do this or that to ‘get our lives into shape’ and be ‘normal’, etc etc, we all know the script, and the situations. So respect has to be a starting point, for all meaningful and productive interactions between us and NTs. 

2.) Those who show us the least respect, in fact none at all, are those organisations and parents of autistic kids, of the ‘autism is a tragedy’ mindset. I’m not going to name names, but I’m sure you know the sort I mean. The ones who say we can’t possibly be autistic because we can talk, read and write, and live (more or less) independently; that only those who are ‘low-functioning’ are ‘truly’ autistic. And therefore we are ‘attention-seekers’ and ‘noisy nuisances’ who ‘trivialise real autism’ (hey, I’m only skimming the surface of the insults here), whiners without any ‘real’ problems who should just go away and shut up. Especially if we dare to suggest there is anything of value about being autistic, or question the type of therapy they are putting their kids through. Because autism is a ‘tragedy’ and a ‘monster’ and they are going to ‘cure’ their kids of it, and make them normal, come hell or high water. 

Such people ignore not only our voices but those of the scientists, doctors, psychiatrists and other researchers who first defined autism as a spectrum of disorders. They ignore everybody in fact but those who pander to their paranoia, ‘poor me’ viewpoint, doom-saying, frantic searches for a ‘cure’, and anti-vaccine etc viewpoints. There’s much I would like to say to such people, but there’s little or no point even trying to engage them in a dialogue, because that simple ‘different-but-equal’ respect is missing. Far better, perhaps, to try and reach those parents of autistics and others who are willing to listen.

Enough said. For now.

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