Can I be honest? I am starting to dread April. That normally does not make sense to me. Easter mostly happens in April. Spring hits its stride in April. The Northern Hemisphere wakes up in April. So, what is making me feel this way about April? Oh, I have the answer. April is Autism Awareness Month, and April 2 is World Autism Day.
Unfortunately, to most Autistic Adults, the trouble with Awareness, is the trouble with hate. Autism Awareness, in its current form, harbors negativity toward the autistic children and adults. The current form of Autism Awareness is ableist.
Now, don’t tune me out yet. We need to unpack that last statement. But let’s unpack it back to front. We need to define ableism. Ableism is, according to various sources, prejudice and discrimination against those who are disabled. At least we can agree on this, I hope. It’s like racism, sexism, or any other form of prejudice you can think of. Simply put, it’s hating people who are disabled. I don’t want to hate anybody. Trouble is, I feel hated, especially when I am called a “moron,” “retard,” “freak” or, get this, when “autistic” is used to put someone down. It gives the message that it’s wrong to be autistic.
Why is it wrong to be autistic? It comes down to the question, why are there autistic people at all? Why are there different kinds of people? These are fundamental questions that would take more than a simple post to answer. But since we autistic are here, there must be a purpose for us. There must be a purpose for everyone on this planet, even if it is to teach compassion. So, why must any one condition be wrong, especially if we do not know the reason for its existence?
So, what can we do with autism? Can we cure it? No. Science is increasingly saying there is no cure for it. When you have autism, you have it for life. So, the only thing we can do is accept autistic people for who and what they are – autistic people. People who need certain accommodations for dealing with a world not made for them. Would it be right to deny a person in a wheelchair a ramp to use? Or yet, deny a little person a cart so they don’t overexert themselves trying to keep up with you? Would you trip a blind man? Yet, when you deny an autistic person their acceptance and reasonable accommodation, that is like tripping a blind man. I hate to use the metaphor, but it’s accurate.
So, why are people not accepting autistic people for who they are? It is partly due to the current form of Autism Awareness. The current form of Autism Awareness is one of turning autism into a sad state of affairs. Turning it into a disease to cure, to get rid of, is their only known way. But what if it is the wrong way? What if acceptance is the right way?