Woo hoo! World Autism Awareness Week is now officially underway. It goes from today till the 2nd of April, whereupon Autism Awareness Month picks up and rolls on through the month of April.
So, yeah, big trigger warning for lots of us.
A lot of folks say that we don’t need autism awareness, we need autism acceptance. I think we need both. People outside the neurodiversity community are so woefully behind the times, so vexed and misled by inaccurate, flawed, harmful, dangerous information about this “epidemic”… I’m fine with all the awareness we can get.
‘Cause we’re not there yet.
Not even close.
There’s always that talk about how autism is a source of suffering, and I’d just like to say a few things about that. Autism is NOT a source of suffering. Our environment is — sensory and social.
The obnoxious scents. The random touching. The awful lighting. The blaring music. The non-food that we’re fed, including all the antibiotics and hormones that screw up our sensitive systems. The artificial unreality that passes for “standard” just stresses us out on every level, kicking off allergic reactions and stress responses that crowd out the social cues we’re supposed to just magically pick up without any effort on our part.
And then there’s the logistics of just getting through the day in a world that congratulates itself on multi-tasking, loudness, chaos (apparently, it’s inspirational for non-autistic people?), constant activity without reflection, arbitrary rules of engagement that favor liars and cheats and self-absorbed “takers”… All of the above is the problem. Not my neurotype.
So, quit blaming autism for my (and your) issues. Autism isn’t the “culprit”.
All the characteristics that people love to chalk up to “autism” are actually symptoms of being forced to live in the non-autistic world.
It’s not just a non-autistic world, it’s the entitlement, the privilege, the assumptions, the enforcement of ways of being that are innately foreign — even harmful — to us, as well as to everyone else. Think the neurotypical world’s standards are a great idea? How’s that working out for everyone? Just look at who/what is in power in the USA and UK. Just look at how things are turning. Just look at the oceans, choked with plastics and killing off deep-sea creatures before we even have a chance to realize they exist.
Autistic folks are like canaries in the coal mine. We’re ultra-sensitive, and we pick up on what’s going on. Just like the hapless birds in cages that coal miners used to lower into mine shafts, to make sure there wasn’t too much gas that would kill them, we’re sensitive to what others cannot detect. And it hurts us, even kills us, when we’re kept in it too long.
If the canary died, it didn’t mean the bird was defective. Oh, sure, I’m certain that was the case, every now and then. But the assumption was NOT that the bird was too weak or too deficient or too weird to make it in the mine shaft. It was a clear indicator that something was wrong. And it wasn’t safe for the miners to descend. All those canaries. Poor things.
Likewise, if an autistic child or adult is struggling with their issues — stimming, rocking, having trouble socially and logistically, under constant sensory overload — let’s apply the same standards. It’s not the autist who’s got a problem. It’s the world in which they’re forced to live and operate… expected to function, as though everything were just fine.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, autism is NOT the symptoms. It’s a distinct neurotype, which responds to environmental hostilities with symptoms. Let’s not confuse the symptoms for the neurotype. I know the vast majority of folks do, but maybe, just maybe, we can inject a little more awareness around that into the general populace.
It would be a start.
Have a good week… and ensuing month, everyone.
Stay safe out there.