Hear Us, Accept Us! #AutismAcceptance2017

In a week and a half it will be Autism Acceptance Month. Yes, I say Acceptance, not Awareness. That’s important. Anybody can be aware of autism but accepting it? That takes effort. Effort that a lot of people show no willingness to make.

Another year passed. More autistic kids dead, abused, at risk. Where’s the awareness of this: this is the real tragedy of autism. We’re ignored. Ignored when we try to speak out against the people who make pretty for the cameras while they tell the world how broken we are.

Ignored when we call for justice after another one of us is murdered and the media focuses yet again on excusing the parents and care-givers because autistic lives are a burden and death is a release, don’t you know?

Ignored when we campaign against unproven and often harmful chemicals and “treatments” such as GcMAF and MMS pushed as cures by charlatans on unsuspecting and easily-misled parents of autistic children who are told time and again that autism is a disease and their children are damaged.

Ignored when those of us who have been through it tell you ABA–in any form–is abusive, coercive enforced compliance to arbitrary “neurotypical” standards of behaviour, where the only goal is to force us to appear indistinguishable at any cost to our long-term mental health.

Ignored when we tell people that we are not “vaccine damaged”: autism is genetic and we are autistic from birth. And still delusional conspiracy theorists like Polly Tommey, Andrew Wakefield, Robert Kennedy Jr.–even Robert De Niro–refuse to accept the overwhelming scientific evidence and insist that we throw more millions of dollars away instead of using that to help autistic kids today.

Ignored when we tell you that autism charities and organisations like Autism Speaks don’t represent us, don’t make our lives better, don’t listen when we tell them what we need. They don’t speak for us; they speak for themselves. They dismiss us, discredit us, portray us as not competent to participate in decisions affecting us directly.

This is why awareness will not do. It doesn’t even come close. We aren’t given a voice, we aren’t heard. All these people, the high-profile “allies” and “autism parents”, people like Anna Kennedy and Bob Wright have something in common: they are not autistic. They are outsiders who can never fully understand how we experience the world.

So why are they the ones who get to tell our stories, over and over? Where are our own autistic voices? With a mere handful of exceptions we are, like me, writing blogs for a few hundred readers, most of whom are also autistic. We’re preaching to the choir.

So if you really want to make a difference to autistic people, go and look for our stories. Read about our lives and experiences. Tell all your friends. And perhaps then we will have a chance to be understood and accepted. And we might one day get the same chances and rights other people take for granted.

The World (Autism Awareness Day) is Not Enough

Today is World Autism Awareness Day, twenty five years on from when it was first set up by the UN. Twenty five years of little voices being lost in our noisy world. There are days for this, weeks for that, months for the other; it’s impossible to keep up with them all. And the majority of people aren’t even aware.

Many Autism advocates and allies are campaigning for much more than awareness. We’re not content with awareness: we want nothing short of acceptance as our right. That is a worthy goal, but for me it still falls short. I have been inspired by tweets from my friend @SoniaBoue calling for Autistic Pride.

I am proud to be Autistic. It is an inseparable part of who I am. I want to celebrate my Autism, dance in the street and party, hang banners from the buildings and lamp posts. I want to happy flap amidst rainbows and shiny things.

For many people outside the Autism community we are objects of pity, defined by our differences and limitations. Autism Speaks (and others) have been very effective at portraying us as tragically broken. But the real tragedy is the ignorance and fear they have created.

We are people. We have the right to be treated with respect and compassion. We have the right to equal treatment, the right to a presumption of competence, the right to make independent choices about our lives. We have the right to be proud of who we are.

I’m not going to plaster my profile with various symbols purporting to symbolize Autism. Instead I am just going to say this,

I am Autistic and I am Proud!