So here we are in April again, and the legions of Autism Awareness are out again. I’ve become quite cynical or maybe just jaded in recent years, as it sometimes seems like the more things change, the more they remain the same. There are so many things, so many people, I wish that I never had to see again. Here are the most prominent of them, and what they say, sometimes outright, sometimes not, but always implicit.
‘Autism mommies’ (and sometimes daddies). (Aka warrior mommies, or martyr mommies on a bad day.) “You’re not like my child, you’re too high-functioning, if you can post online then you’re not really autistic/not autistic enough to understand, what about the ‘real’/‘severe’ autistics, you don’t know how hard it is to raise these children, my child will never be independent, you’re so rude, if you would tone down, if you would shut up, you should say that you ‘have autism’ not ‘am autistic’, I am an ‘autism mom’, I’m fighting autism every day, I am my child’s voice, I want my child to be ‘normal’, my child loves ABA, I don’t care if adult autistics don’t like it, I’m going to Light It Up Blue/wear the puzzle piece/support Autism Speaks anyhow, you’re not really autistic anyway so your opinion doesn’t matter…”
ABA defenders/promoters. “I’m sorry if you were hurt but that’s not ‘real’ ABA, that’s ‘old’ ABA and we don’t do that anymore, my ABA isn’t like that, our children love ABA/their therapist, it’s scientific and ‘evidence-based’, we’re helping these children, we’re teaching them skills, we’re teaching them how to be like other kids, you must want them to not have any therapy or help then, you must want them to grow up to be like animals screaming and pooping in their pants, we’re helping their families, this is what the parents need, it’s not true that ABA is torture or abuse, we don’t punish them anymore, you don’t know what you’re talking about, you’re not really autistic anyway so your opinion doesn’t matter…”
Inspiration porn peddlers. “Look at the wonderful boy who asked the nerdy girl ‘with autism’ to the prom, isn’t he wonderful, such an inspiration, look at this program or device or special class that’s ‘helping’ children ‘with autism’ learn how to talk/interact ‘like normal’/play special sports/be a team mascot, isn’t it inspiring, aren’t they good for doing this, aren’t we good for sharing this? Look at how our faces soften, our smiles beam wide, our eyes glaze over with our own goodness and compassion for these poor creatures, isn’t it inspiring? …What’s that? No, we didn’t ask the autistic kids/teens/young adults what they thought about being ‘helped’, we didn’t include their words, their responses, their ideas, in our article/news item/puff piece, because we already talked to their parents and teachers and the ‘experts’, so it’s not necessary…”
Media bias and ignorance about autistics. “Autism is a disease/epidemic, it’s brain damage, it’s a layer that must be removed to let the ‘real’ child shine, the world would be better off if there was a cure for autism; it’s a childhood thing, mostly little white boys, they’re non-verbal and almost mindless, they lack empathy or understanding of others; they’re nerdy young white male computer geeks, with no caring or empathy and zero social skills; people are saints to put up with/help them, their parents deserve a medal… what’s that? Ask the autistics what they’re feeling? Communicate with them? Consider how things might look from their point of view? Consider whether there might be autistics that don’t fit into these narrow little categories? But we already know All About Autism, because we’ve talked to their parents and teachers and the ‘experts’, so it’s not necessary…”
Biased research on autistics. “We must compare autistics against the ‘normals’ and discover their defect, because any difference is a pathological one, in no way can autistics ever be seen as okay or maybe even better than non-autistic controls, even if we must invent new terms or slant the research results in favour of those controls, even if that involves recasting morally or socially dubious results as ‘good’, and autistic’s purer motives as ‘bad’, because just being autistic is a wrongness in itself, so autistics can never be better at anything, everything they do is wrong simply because they are autistic…. What’s that? Autistics are fine just as they are? They’re not an inferior version of ‘proper’ human beings? Impossible! We’ve already outlined their deficiencies, and we’re the experts anyhow, we know autism best, so it’s not necessary to change what we’re doing…”
Violence against autistics. “Autistics bring in on themselves because they’re weird, they’re the r-word, they’re ‘natural’ targets, what do you expect, if they’d only behave properly they wouldn’t get bashed and bullied and murdered, it’s their own fault; if my child could just be normal I wouldn’t have to do this to them, if I didn’t have an autistic kid my life would be so much better, they’re better off dead anyway, they drove me to it, I’m the victim here; these kids need controlling and suppression so it’s only right that the usual rules shouldn’t apply to them, it’s only natural that teachers don’t want them in their class or have to put them into isolation rooms or tie them into chairs or hold them down on the floor or have them arrested no matter what their age, it’s only right that the Judge Rotenberg Centre uses electric measures to keep them in line, it’s only natural, I mean they’re animals really, so what does it matter what’s done to them… What’s that? Human rights? But they’re Not Really Human, so…”
We know none of this is true.
We know it in the depths of our bones, in the depths of our hearts, in the aching depths of our pain. And we’ve told them so, again and again and again… but they still aren’t listening. In fact, far from listening, too many of them keep coming on to our pages or groups and talking over us, telling us how wrong we are, how defective, and how They Know Better and it’s Their Responsibility to Educate us… and get furiously offended, or loftily ‘forgiving’ and ‘above’ us, when we reject that so-called education. We’ve seen it all before, heard it all before, so many times. Too many times. It just doesn’t seem to end. We have more allies now, but somehow we seem to have more enemies too.
And meanwhile, we suffer. We bleed. We live in agony.
And no-one listens to our screams, our protests, our pleas.
They’re not listening.
I am so tired of this. I wish I could never hear any of the above again. But I know I will. And that’s why I am so tired and jaded and cynical.
Are you sick of autism awareness yet?