It’s April. I’m probably supposed to say “Happy Autism Awareness Month”, but I’m not going to. Being autistic in April is hard. I don’t need you to display blue lights for autism awareness. I don’t need you to be aware of autism. Honestly. I don’t. I just need you to be a decent human being who is concerned enough with the rights of all people that you will listen when I say:
I am not a “person with autism”.
I’m not broken.
I am not a piece of a puzzle waiting to be solved.
I’m not a less than perfect version of a normal person.
I am autistic.
I am valuable.
I am whole. Just as I am.
Autism is not a negative thing. Being identified as autistic has given me an understanding of myself that was not possible before. It has given me a community of friends who understands me, my strengths and my challenges. It has allowed me to recognise my needs and gain confidence in finding ways to have them met.
There are many autistic people out there who are like me. We don’t want much… just to be accepted as we are, and for people to be willing to make a few changes that will help us participate more fully in society. We’d rather you spend your “Autism Awareness” blue lights fundraiser donation money on making the world more accessible than on figuring out new ways to keep us separate from the world.
Yet, for some reason the brigade of “autism parents” and “professional experts” are going to spend April trying to get you to believe that we need segregated schools, jobs, and housing. They want us in therapy to make us look more normal and so that we don’t get bullied. They aren’t all that interested in acceptance of diversity, valuing all people, meeting everyones needs, and teaching bullies the social skills they need to act in socially responsible ways. They’ll want you to agree with them that we’re better off with our own kind, and that our families need breaks from us to help them cope with the burden of caring for us.
It is a strange thing to know that usually they want you hidden away so as not to inconvenience anyone, but this month you are welcome in public as long as you are prepared to be presented as a tragedy story.
The reality is, we are here in the community already. Learning, working, loving, raising families, contributing. Often we are living next door to you and you don’t realise. And, yes, we were just like those autistic kids they use in their fundraising campaigns. Yes, we are disabled. But that doesn’t mean we can’t live full lives.
We are people, just like you. We have the same rights as you. Our lives are as valuable as yours. Our needs and wants are just as valid as yours.
So, while the world is busy getting “aware” and raising money for non- autistic run charities to try to figure out ways to cure me of being myself, I will be over here, engaging in my favourite repetitive self soothing activities, indulging in my special interests, eating my predictable restricted diet, and fixating on topics I am obsessed with. Stimming, self-caring, learning, advocating. In other words, I am going to spend April the way I spend every other month- being happily, proudly autistic and fighting for equal rights for all of us…..