Last week, Autism Speaks told the world that autism is a number of bad things, including fear of the future, life in despair, a burden, etc. As a response, there’s a flashblog going on today where autistics and allies submit their art, videos and blog posts on what autism really is. Here’s my contribution.
Let’s start with the facts. Autism is a developmental disability that causes problems in information and sensory processing. This leads to behaviors such as repetititiveness, withdrawal and different ways of communicating and relating to others.
Autism for me has both positive and negative consequences. One of the phrases that Autism Speaks likes to associate with autism, is in fact correct for me: fear of the future. This, however, is a pretty common fear in today’s society. We’re (here in the Netherlands) still in economically hard times, and I personally witness people worrying about whether they’ll get a job, sell their house, etc. These are fears for the future. They may not be the same as mine – I worry about health care cuts -, but it’s not like my worries are unique to autistics and their families.
Autism sometimes makes it harder for autistics to participate in society – or is it society’s unwillingness to adapt to autistics’ differences? These differences, in my case, include inabiity to handle intense, unexpected stimuli and/or multiple stimuli at once. I know that not all these can be prevented, but it’s people having a mindset that autism is ultimately something that needs to be eradicated at least on the surface, that makes it worse. This attitude leads to people seemingly deliberately ignoring my sensory needs for the sake of treatment. And no, this is not a consequence of autism, this is a consequence of intolerance.
I will not go so far as to say all autistic experiences are due to discrimination. As I said, not all difficulties can be avoided. Yet neither can all difficulties for a neurotypical. Some autistics, including myself, have it harder than most neurotypicals. I won’t deny this, and I won’t deny that autism sucks sometimes, but so do a host of other experiences that we don’t give nearly as much attention to eradicating as Autism Speaks does with autism.