An autistic person of color recently brought up a really valid point: many times, when persons of color bring up racism in the world, and even in autistic circles, many white people come up with “But you can’t condemn us! We’re LESS RACIST than neurotypicals!” or some other self-gratifying comparison. Here’s the problem with comparisons: they expose that you’re still affected by the same thing as the person you’re distancing yourself from! If you’re “less racist,” you’re still racist. If you’re “more open-minded,” that doesn’t mean your mind is completely open. You can’t excuse yourself from improvement. Just because you’re ahead of somebody in the race, it does not mean you are at the finish line. Self-improvement and tolerance are marathons, not the long jump. There is still work that needs to be done. Hitler was and is not the only Nazi, David Duke is not the only member of the Ku Klux Klan.
You may be wondering why I haven’t spoken out against separating children from their parents at the border. Well, I’ve been in a fight with someone very important about it. Make no mistake, I believe that separating the children from their parents, who usually have little to no choice in the matters of their parents, was a horrible idea.
However, I am square in the middle of Trump Country, where many people here tend to act as though Donald Trump died on the cross for you, and God raised Donald Trump from the dead. (No on both counts; that was Jesus.) I had to engage many people gently, even some very close to me. I had to simply had to agree to disagree.
Now, I know that they were illegal immigrants, which complicates matters. What I do not know is whether it will soon be illegal at all for people of color to immigrate now that Trump is president. I firmly believe Trump is telling his supporters that “illegal immigrants” and other persons of color are to blame for their lot in life, which is not entirely true.
NOTE: This is in response to a recent blog post written by a parent of an autistic child.
“What will happen to my autistic kid when I’m gone?” “What will happen to my autistic kid when I die?” Well, if you hog all the autism care and concern and leave none of it for them, they will probably die alone, possibly killing themselves.
Have I got your attention now?
An isolated, dependent, and short lifespan is the current fate of most autistic people. Do you want to stop that? Don’t hog all the care and concern. Remember, the autistic person is suffering the most. NOT YOU!!!!!
Also, I have a few questions I want to ask:
Here’s my question: Can they learn to adapt and live?
Some autistic people need round-the-clock care, but I believe many do not. You must learn where on this care spectrum this person falls, and make the proper arrangements. You might be surprised where this person falls, and where he functions highly. Also, get him some autistic friends. I don’t have any close autistic friends right now, except on Facebook, and there are times I feel all alone.
Here’s my next question: Can they be autistic around you?
There is a LOT of pressure to fit in, to be acceptable, to conform. Autistic people, because they are bullied, left out and ostracized, feel this pressure more than most people. Holly Robinson-Peete’s son once declared “I don’t want autism” to his family at one time in the course of conversation. This just broke my heart. I could not put a finger on it at the time, but I realized it meant that he feels he cannot be loved and/or accepted until he can conform to neurotypicality. I could not watch another episode of their reality show.
Another question: Is there somebody they can be autistic, and therefore themselves, around?
If not you, the autistic person NEEDS to be autistic. It’s a fact of life as of May 29, 2018. If they are not themselves around you, they need to be themselves around somebody. They need somebody they can trust. Not you, them. You might be surprised who they trust, and it may not be the people you trust. Remember: many times, they have learned to not trust themselves or their instincts. I have gone through this behavior, and have re-learned to trust my instincts in my thirties. By then, it was almost too late.
I am currently forty years old. By some estimates, the average death age of an autistic person is thirty-six. (By some, it could be as late as fifty-four.) This means I may have already outlived my lifespan by four years. Not much time on this world where we face rejection, is it? Most autistic people still may be doomed to die alone, but you can help change it. There is a group of people who can help your child, because they know what your child is going through. They are going through it themselves. These are what we call autistic adults.
- The whole treatment of Meg Griffin.
- Having to borrow a title from a show that treats their teen daughter like feces.
- The fact that I have to hide the fact that my very nice upstairs neighbor is black because some very powerful white people assume she is some kind of criminal.
- The fact that I am forty and only qualified to work in a fast food joint because I only have an Associate Degree.
- People who go swimming in pubic pools when they don’t feel well. Stay home and get well!
- The fact that I have to justify my autism diagnosis because I am not Sheldon Cooper, Raymond “Rain Man” Babbitt, or some other white male whose weird is life-throttling.
- The fact that I have yet to see an autistic girl who likes assumed girly things on T.V.
- That most of the autistic people in media are white, male and otherwise of a privileged class.
- That these stereotypes throttle non-white, non-male autistic people from being believed.
- That I am even having to mention these in the 21st Century.
Sorry, but I will not sugarcoat it. I don’t know how. By now, I’m sure you have heard that the new autism prevalence is 1 in 59, up from 1 in 68. And do you know what? I don’t think sugarcoating applies here. If we did not attach a stigma or hate to an autism diagnosis, as American society tends to do to the non-white-bread types, I would not have to warn you.
Now, let’s get down to your real question: Why? What could be the cause of a higher prevalence than before in the United States? I just put a clue up above. It’s wider screening, especially among children of color. A recent article by the Associated Press cited closing gaps of diagnosis between Black (20% gap – 10% gap) and Hispanic (50% gap – 20% gap) children. It looks like we’re casting wider nets than ever to grab these children and propel them toward a new understanding.
So, what are we supposed to do with this new information. Well, I’ve got a strange idea: Close your eyes, relax, and see this new rate for what it is: good news on better understanding your kids.
Mariah Carey spoke of first being diagnosed with Bipolar Disorder in 2001. Since she only recently came out of the mental illness closet, I figured she suffered greatly due to the stigma and the secret she held. And it was also true; she admitted to this suffering. Sadly, this is not the only case of suffering due to stigma I can personally account for.
I know a person who came out of the mental illness closet almost immediately after being diagnosed. Unfortunately, she lost a lot of friends along the way. Also, she was blamed for extreme measures being taken to control her by one of those former friends. She suffered through adjustments through medications for a year, and she did it alone.
So, who did she turn to when she needed help for tough financial decisions when undergoing these changes? NOBODY. She and I have large amounts of financial debt and cannot even declare bankruptcy to clear those debts. We are hounded by mail. We are hounded by phone. We are hounded by bad credit scores. And we have no one to turn to in our hour of need. Where is everybody? Everybody we know turned away when we came out of the mental illness closet.
Why do we hate getting help? Why do we discriminate against those with mental illness? Stigmatizing mental illness is only society shooting itself in the foot. Less people seek help, which leads to more hiding, which leads to dramatic confrontations of the jackass-on-a-fast-food-roof kind. Don’t you see? Making help a thing of weakness and vulnerability only makes us weak and vulnerable against the coming drama. We need to stop stigmatizing getting help for your problems. It would have saved years of pain and suffering in Carey’s case.
You’ve seen the blue monuments, the store displays, the big rallies. It’s all about the suffering parents! Those poor paaaaarents, dealing with a demon autistic child! But nobody seems to see how it’s affecting the children, or worse, what happens when those children grow up as broken adults that need repair. Sure, most autism parents tend to make the autism suffering all about them. They tend not to look past the end of their noses. But let’s see how we can deal with them now.
- On Autism “Awareness” Rallies: Don’t go. There is no need to go to a rally where your fear being booed and worse.
- On Wearing Blue: I’d avoid it, at least for April 2. People might think you support the hateful actions of Autism Speaks. Most autistic people tend to go towards red, gold or taupe for Autism Acceptance. (Personally, I go red, simply because I have it.)
- On Blue-Lit Monuments: Take those as reminders that we need to fight for Autism Acceptance.
- On Store Displays: Take these with a grain of salt. Your experience is an expert one.
- On Those Poor Paaaaarents, Part 1: Ask them this question: “Are you the one who is autistic? Or is it your child?” “Do you think a child has meltdowns on purpose?” “Do you think a person suffers on purpose?”
- On Those Poor Paaaaarents, Part 2: Remember, they are made by despair-loving doctors who talk about what the child CAN’T do, as if the doctors know. If they are open to it, teach them the truth.
- On Autism Speaks Dominance: Take it as a reminder that we still need to fight. Remember, they are anti-autistic scaremongers, no matter what they say.
- On Not “Looking Autistic” or “Seeming Autistic”: Well, bring up the point that AUTISTIC ADULTS DO NOT ACT LIKE AUTISTIC CHILDREN. (Ahem, excuse my yelling.) It’s true. When you talk about delays, bring up the point that Later Does Not Mean Never.
- On the basic stereotype that “They’ll Never Amount to Anything!!!!!” – Google Famous Autistic People. You’ll be pleasantly surprised. Remember, autistic people can do anything.
- On Inequality in Autism Access and Treatment: This is intersectionality in a nutshell. The theory is, suffering is compounded the more you deviate from the white male cisgender neurotypical “norm.”
This list of specific issues is by no means an exhaustive one. Please, comment on ones I need to address. I really want to help.
EDIT: Point included in comment about autistic age on 3/25/18.