If You Want to Support Autistic People, You Need To Listen to Autistic People.
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Politics and Activism

If You Want to Support Autistic People, You Need To Listen to Autistic People.

You might be surprised to learn how unsupported certain organizations like Autism Speaks can be.

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If You Want to Support Autistic People, You Need To Listen to Autistic People.
AssistiveWare

It's April, that means autism awareness month! You might have heard of "Light it up blue" to support awareness of autism. This is promoted by Autism Speaks, a corporation that claims to advocate for autism awareness. I'm here to tell you that they don't, and many autistic people actually feel strongly against Autism Speaks for some of the following reasons.

First, let's talk about autism. What is it? Perhaps the first thing that comes to your mind is "8 year old white child who knows every single fact about trains and has a meltdown if his food touches." While autism is a behavioral disorder that can present itself this way, there are many diverse ways that autism can manifest.

It is a neurotype, which is not a disease, and has no cure. There are many symptoms like sensory preferences, social understanding, special interests, stimming, or more. And you might think that autism can be on a sliding scale from "not very autistic" to "extremely autistic." Even this is a myth, and perpetuates the functioning labels which harm people. If someone is high functioning, they are denied accessibility and asked to work around the problem themselves. If they are low functioning, they are denied agency over their own lives. The truth is that autistic people (which is usually preferred over "person with autism") can have strengths in one area, while falling short in another. It looks more like this:

I made this one myself, completely random. And everyone has a different shape. There is no "more" or "less" autistic, just different autism for every person. The scale which is used itself is also different depending on who you ask, some may only have five or so skills that you can advance while others have three, or ten. Some may have different sorts of signs or skills, like empathy, or difficulty with communication, or other things. It's almost like autism doesn't do the same thing to every person because it doesn't effect them like a disease but works with their current behavioral and processing abilities, almost like every person is different or something.

You may have noticed that I said autistic person rather than person with autism. This is an issue across the entire disabled and mentally ill community, it's called person-first language and it is bad because it reduces a person to existing DESPITE their disability rather than their disability being a part of them. You would never say "Not a musician, just a person who can play an instrument!" The problem is that person-first language makes people think that disability makes people less of a person somehow, and that this way they are a person WITH disability rather than a disabled person. It's belittling and stupid, don't do that.

Anyway, so autistic people present in as many ways as there are autistic people. Even some of your favorite characters may have been coded with autism (Leslie Knope of Parks and Recreation, Prince Zuko of Avatar the Last Airbender, Lilo of Lilo and Stitch, Peridot from Steven Universe, Captain Raymond Holt of Brooklyn 99, Tina Belcher of Bob's Burgers) but they were seen a quirky or clueless, perhaps just adorably inept at things that if they were good at them, would make them a functional neurotypical person.

But the thing is, is autism really such a problem? Because gosh darn it seems like everywhere you look, there's a new way to avoid autism (as if that were even possible!). People go gluten free, drop red dye, and refuse vaccinations to avoid the Dreaded Autism™. Avoiding vaccines is harmful enough, but to do so because you would rather have your child get polio and die over the option of having autism is just harmful. Autism doesn't kill anyone, and it will not ruin your life. It may change, but you can just adapt. It is unfair to think that autism is a horrible plague on humanity, and that it must be avoided. Also, vaccines just don't cause autism.

Which is what brings me to Autism Speaks. Sure, they promote autism awareness. But they use the money to fund scientists to find a Cure to autism. I don't know about the rest of you, but pretty much every autistic person I know would refuse this, because their autism is just a manifestation of how they formed as a person and a fundamental foundry of their identity as an individual. Personally, I am dating an autistic person. I don't love them for their autism or despite their autism, but I love them and that includes their autism because its a part of them.

Autism speaks will have you think that if you have a kid with autism, it will ruin your life. That you will be deprived of motherhood/fatherhood by your child because you will never experience certain things like hugging a child who doesn't like to be touched, or never making eye contact. I mean maybe those things will happen but ? Who cares?? If you want a kid JUST for those things, you are not ready to be a parent. You are becoming a parent because of what YOU get out of it, NOT to raise a child. If you say "boy or girl, as long as it's healthy!" that is also just as bad. If you are not prepared to take on the challenges of a disabled or autistic child, then maybe you aren't prepared to be a parent. News flash: all children come with unique challenges, autistic children are no different. Maybe you will be potty training longer than the other mommies, maybe you won't have as active of a social life anymore, but imagine how hard it is being forced to act neurotypical just so your parents will show you affection.

Autism speaks will give you so much reason to believe that your child is not right, missing, trapped, and wrong that they will have parents wishing their autistic child was dead. Seriously, you can't make this stuff up; check out this commercial for autism speaks which was meant to show how important it is to prevent autism because it ruined these moms' lives, but ended up being a mom saying she wish she could kill her autistic child (in front of the child!):

(Warning, might be triggering, lots of ableism)

Autism Speaks will make you think that your child's "condition" is so unnatural, that there MUST be a cure. There isn't. This is just how some people are. Fun fact: Autism Speaks fund raised thousands of dollars in order to fund years of research from scientists to find a link between vaccines and autism, only to spend it on marketing and private jets. The only advocacy they are interested in is making the rich people richer off your donations, and trying to find a cure for something that doesn't need one.

Autistic people don't need a cure, and I am sorry if you think so because you must not value autistic people in your life. Autism Speaks will steal your hope and sell it back to you. They tell you to "light it up blue" for awareness when really they want more donations. They'll tell you that autism is a rising epidemic, when in reality people have better access to diagnosis than they did in the past, accounting for the climbing numbers. They'll tell you that boys are more likely to be autistic than girls when really it just presents in different ways for each (boys present the typical idea of autism that most people have (knows everything about a specific area of interest but has meltdown over physical contact) when girls are more quiet and reserved, which is how we train girls to be more like young ladies). They spend more on advertising the autism problem than they do actually doing anything to help autistic people. They don't let autistic people speak out, instead only promoting non-autistic, or "allistic," people's voices.

This April, let's spread awareness of the REAL autism and not this dehumanizing crap. Instead of light it up blue, go Red Instead to support autistic people rather than autism awareness groups. If you still want to help, you can look into the Autistic Self Advocacy Network, which is leagues better at actually helping autistic people rather than hurting. We don't want a cure, we want acceptance. Acceptance that we are the way we are, and for society to be more accessible. Thanks for coming to my rant, and remember to research an organization before you support them.

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This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
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