I am autistic. Everything about me is autistic. I do everything I do autistically. Over my 44 years I have learned, often quite deliberately, to do things in ways that you will interpret as “normal”. But, I am still autistic, even when you can’t tell I am by watching my behaviour. I am using a strategy called masking to blend in. I am passing as non-autistic.
I’ve found a problem with taking a respectful approach to parenting my autistic children.
April: Autism Awareness Month. Light it up blue. Solve the puzzle of autism. Raise money for people with autism.
I’ve written about all of it before. In this short article I’m going to do something different.
I’ve been writing articles about autism for April, “Autism Awareness Month”, for 6 years now. That sounds like a lot in some ways, but compared to how long other autistic activists have been writing, it’s not much. Yet, I’m already tired of it.
I’ve been thinking a lot about empathy and the common perception that autistic people lack it. This thought process started months ago when I read an article by Briannon Lee that I related to in many ways.
I saw an advertisement today that was promoting a talk by an autism expert, a man who has an autistic son. A few days ago I saw a link to the website of an autism expert who is a psychologist and researcher. Last week I saw a short video explaining autism made by an autism expert who teaches about autism at a University. The week before I saw series of infographics made by an autism expert who is an author and counsellor to autistic people.
I think it is funny, in an ironic way, that so many people try to tell us how to identify and refer to ourselves. They say we shouldn’t use identity first language when we say we are autistic. We should say we are people with autism because we are people first.
Every now and then I see a conversation in which someone (usually not autistic, but occasionally autistic) says that self diagnosis of autism is not okay. I’ve never dived into the conversation publicly before, because it’s a tough one to have and, to be honest, it’s exhausting defending yourself to people who’ve already made up their mind and don’t want to listen. But I do have some pretty strong thoughts about this, and I’m going to share them here.
It’s great that as a society we are becoming more aware of mental health challenges and the impact they have on peoples lives. Words like depression, and anxiety are part of our conversations now, and the stigma around them is reducing. But there is still some misunderstanding about what they actually are, and even more so when we mention anxiety in neurodivergent people.
You can listen to this article as part of a podcast on The Neurodivecast by Alex Kronstein. Click << here >> to open the podcast site in a new window. This article is read second and begins five and a half minute into the episode. Keep listening for other excellent articles on the topic of ABA and behaviour modification therapy.
“But it works”
It’s the most common reply I see from parents when autistic adults express opposition to behaviour modification therapy. I hear them tell the story of what has been achieved since their child has been in therapy, in order to convince others that they are wrong about the abusive nature of therapies like ABA. As I’ve listened I realise there is a lot of evidence supporting their claims, so I can only conclude that behaviour modification therapy does get the results parents want.