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Saturday, March 31, 2012
To My Beloved Autistic Community on Autism Acceptance Day 2012
It’s the beginning of Autism Acceptance Month. (Autism Acceptance Day is officially April 2).
Acceptance means accepting yourself as you are, even in the face of persistent attempts throughout your life to get you to be what you are not. Especially in the face of persistent attempts throughout your life to get you to be what you are not. The best you can be is Autistic. Let me explain. “The best you can be is Autistic” means that you are at your best when you are being fully who you are, able to express yourself and move through the world in ways that are right for you, comfortable for your body. “The best you can be is Autistic” does not imply impairments, “less than,” “can only do so much.” On the contrary, it means that you are who you are- your pervasive Autistic self (which actually includes those parts that observers might think are "typical" just because they can't see anything that looks unusual to them), and that encompasses all of who you are, not just the parts that have been “permitted,” and not just the stuff that whatever the DSM of the moment says are your deficits.
You have the right, or should, to grow in ways that are good for you, that you think are good for you. You have the right to make changes in your life that you think are the correct ones for you. If stimming helps you get through the day, you have the right to do it. If making eye contact is a goal of yours, go for it! You get to choose. When others choose for you (in the case of children or in some support roles) let it be not in the vain attempt to “normalize” you, but to help you be your best, Autistic, self. This is no different (speaking in my parental role) from helping any child learn and grow to be the best person possible. This is no different (speaking as an Autistic adult and former Autistic child) from learning at a pace that is both challenging and not way outside the “envelope” of what works for you.
Autism Acceptance Day is for: Autistic people reading this blog, Autistic people who can’t read this blog, Autistic people who will never read this blog but whose lives might be impacted by those around them learning to embrace and cherish all of who they are. Autism Acceptance Day is not limited to acceptance for the “high end” (whatever that is) of the spectrum. Autism Acceptance Day is for the Autistic children in the JRC (and let’s not forget other children who are there as well). Autism Acceptance Day is for the Autistic adults (and others with disabilities) in institutions and for their family members who are working for the change that will allow them to live in their communities with appropriate supports. Since it always gets brought up, Autism Acceptance Day is for adults who wear diapers, don’t speak, and smear feces. Autism Acceptance Day is for the children who get put into restraint and seclusion when school should be safe. Autism Acceptance Day is for the kids who get bullied; and it’s for the toddlers whose parents are already trying to prevent them from showing any Autistic characteristics. Autism Acceptance Day is for kids who spend 25-40 hours a week doing ABA instead of getting some time off to be kids. Autism Acceptance Day is even for Autistics who don’t want to be Autistic (they need feel no pressure to celebrate the day!)
Autism Acceptance Day is for the Autistic activists who work hard to bring a gleam of understanding to beleaguered parents who have heard one too many versions of the “horrible news” story. Autism Acceptance Day is for Autistic parents who are raising our children (Autistic or not) in the face of other people's doubts and our challenges. Autism Acceptance Day is for our non-autistic allies, remembering that we and we alone get to determine who our allies are , who support our right to be the Autistic people we actually are and always will be. Autism Acceptance Day is for non-autistic parents who try to understand their children, even if they don't really, and strive to make the world a better, accepting, place for them.
Autism Acceptance Day is for Autistic children, and Autistic adults, who might be: sad, afraid, confused, worried, anxious, happy, ecstatic, joyous, and every other condition that is part and parcel of the life and world of any human being.
Happy Autism Acceptance Day!
(April 2 for Autism Acceptance Day, the entire month for Autism Acceptance Month)