Thursday, October 1, 2015
I recently read an article entitled, "My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About." There was some good in it, as it discussed a need for inclusion of Autistic people, but it also left me frustrated and angry. It didn't discuss any real ways to include us, and I am tired of people sharing the perspective of parents, rather than the perspective of Autistic people. There are lots of us! I find it comical that the author says her son's "kind of autism" isn't talked about. From my perspective, shared by many other Autistic people, the doom and gloom of autism is what is always shared. We all have support needs, and those support needs vary from person to person. Like the writer, I am not a fan of the feel-good stories about the disabled person attending prom, because they are focused on the non-disabled person and intended to pat non-disabled people on the back for simply being our friends. Here is the thing. Autistic people have value! Really, we do. Let me say it again for the people in the back, all Autistic people have value! Does that mean the Autistic person who does not speak and requires support at all times, even as an adult has value? Yes, yes it does. I hate how she refers to the Autistic prodigy playing the piano better than Billy Joel. No, we are not all gifted, but we all have value. We all have things we are good at, and we all need help. The prodigy playing the piano needs help too. Autism is a disability. The Neurodiversity movement is not about denying that fact. I am an Autistic parent, wife, and teacher. I am good at a lot of things. I am also disabled. Some things are really hard, and that's ok. What's not ok is complaining about how hard your life raising an Autistic child is. Autistic children often understand more than you think they do. Many Autistic children will one day read that blog post written about them. How do you think they will feel when that day comes? I see it as a red flag when a parent writes about how hard it is to parent their child. Every year in March the disability community comes together to mourn children murdered by their caregivers. We say their names, and remember them for the beautiful, valuable life they led. People give these parents a platform to talk about their frustrations, and sometimes those same children being written about end up having their names read on our Disability Day of Mourning. The author of this story is right that behavior is communication. We need to listen to what kids are saying though. Stop mourning for what you can't do because of your Autistic child, and start celebrating the child that is right here. Listen to what they are telling you, through words, signs, typing, pictures, or behavior. Keep looking for ways to help that child communicate! Find your community with other Autistic adults and children. We are here and we are valuable. Get involved with a local autism organization, (not Autism Speaks.) Find an organization that celebrates your family, such as a local chapter of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Your child is worth it.