Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Autism Acceptance Month - A rallying cry

by Samantha Bodwell

It is April again and we are celebrating the second year of Autism Acceptance Month in Northern Virginia, thanks to my continued efforts on the Acceptance front! 
 
As you recall, due to my suggestion and further urging the board of the Autism Society of Northern Virginia, my board, voted unanimously in November of 2011 to change April to Autism Acceptance Month.  This is a milestone in Autistic History.  An Autistic on a board of Neurotypicals was able to change their minds and real tangible change has come out of it.  All other Autistic led movements were born/exist on the Internet, this one never was.  I am proud to have suggested Autism Acceptance Month and seen it come to fruition.
 
Autism Acceptance Month is a time to celebrate and embrace our Autistic differences.  It is so much more than you accepting your Autistic diagnosis or your child’s, it is instead about society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we are, verbal or nonverbal, stims and all. 
 
Look how far other civil rights movements have come.  Blacks are now CEOs of big companies, the president of the United States, elected officials, etc., etc.  Gays are getting married in many states, elected officials, etc., etc.  Both minority groups are no longer seen as second class citizens.  People with physical handicaps are now able to work wherever they like, given building accommodations, etc.
 
The rights of Autistics are also civil rights.  We have rights too, but Autistics are still seen as second class citizens, we are continually discounted by society because we are not “normal”, but what is “normal” anyway.  Our Autistic youth are continually experimented on in hopes of “curing” their Autism from shock “therapy” to chelation “therapy” to bleach enemas to crazy diets to new drugs with horrible side-effects to the latest quack therapy having them ingest the eggs of parasitic helmith porcine whipworms to who knows what!  Autism is not something that can be “cured”, it is not a disease!  We as a society need to stop all of this quackery masquerading as science!  Stop experimenting on our Autistic youth!  No other community, disability or not, has been continuously treated this badly!  We are hated and feared; the news media of late has only made to exacerbate the situation, not improve it.  When it comes to Autism confusion about us is the norm. We need Acceptance!  Parents and caregivers murder us and society does not even bat an eye, nor do they shout that such atrocities must cease.  They instead say that the caregiver or parent had to struggle because of that Autistic adult or Autistic child and that it is understandable that they committed murder; it is never about us, only just them.  They try to rationalize it, but murder is still murder plain and simple.  No one speaks for the innocent murdered Autistics; we are just seen as expendable.  We are not expendable, we are just has human as you are, we too deserve respect. 
 
There is so much that the Neurotypical world can learn from us, we have much to share, our brains work differently from yours, but that does not mean that we are “flawed” or “broken” or “damaged”, it just means we are different and may have a unique way of looking at things.  Give us a chance to show you, you might just be surprised.  We do not need to be “fixed” or “cured”, that is not what we need, what we need is Acceptance, pure and simple.  Other groups have gotten it, but we need it more.  Ours is a hidden disability that many times gets mistaken for insanity, especially when an adult is having a meltdown in public.  We are restrained like prisoners and experimented on, we are not lab rats here to help advance science, your quest to improve us pharmaceutically is unfounded, we are not “diseased”, etc.  One looks for “cures” for diseases, Autism is not a disease.  If I blew on you, you would not catch my Autism. 
 
Statistically Autistics are either underemployed or unemployed, that does not mean we have nothing to offer to the workforce or that we are not employable, it just means that the workforce is not always welcoming to us.  Offices and other workplaces have noises, distractions, unfriendly lighting, social demands, smells, etc. that we Autistics can not handle, it is not in our “design”.  Other disabilities are given ready accommodations, but unlike, for example blindness, one set of accommodations does not fit us all, we are all unique in our Autistic strengths and weaknesses.  The solution is not for Autistics to become more like Neurotypicals, no other disability has been made to do that.  There is no way that we Autistics can become Neurotypical, we are wired differently.  The internet is littered with stories and blogs about Autistics who stepped onto the stage of life and tried their hand at “playing” Neurotypicals.  Autistics struggle through life, from sensory difficulties to communication problems, etc. the additional stress of trying to be a Neurotypical does not help, it instead hurts us.  We have our ups and downs, the downs are the worst, but the ups make it all worthwhile.  What happened to those Autistics who “played” at being Neurotypicals, did it work you ask?  No, it did not, in the end those same Autistics who valiantly tried to work in a way that they were never meant to have burned out.  It is not healthy for us to be anything other that what we are.  We are Autistic. 
 
What we need is for society to welcome and embrace our Autistic differences and not shun us or try to “fix” or “cure” us.  April as you know is Autism Acceptance Month, it is a month to celebrate and embrace our Autistic differences, those of our friends, our children, and family members.  Autism Acceptance is about society as a whole accepting Autistics for who we are, verbal or nonverbal, stims and all.  During the month of April I especially ask, beg, and plead that you work toward Autism Acceptance in your local communities, for your Autistic selves, your Autistic children, and all of the Autistic generations yet to come.  As I have mentioned in other entries, every great movement starts with a spark, now is your chance to be that spark!  Be proud of who you and we are.  We are unique and beautiful and do not need to be changed!  Nonverbal or verbal, we Autistics have much to offer society, from a smile to a brilliant discovery; all we need is a chance to do so.  We need love and Acceptance.  One can only be who he/she is, no one else.  Be you, the only YOU, you can be.  Do not try to blend in, instead be true to yourself.  No matter how hard things get we Autistics should not be dissuaded in our efforts, we need to keep working to make the world a welcoming place, encouraging others to Accept us is the way to do it.  We need more self-advocates working within the system to change things for us.  If we all do our part, we will make a better world.  Be Autistic and Proud, I know I am and I would not want to be any other way. 
 
A VERY happy Autism Acceptance Month to one and all!!
 
Samantha Bodwell – Autism Acceptance Digest  https://plus.google.com/117870784963099546718