To the Autistic Person Who Feels Like a Burden for Existing


To the person who found my blog by searching Google for “feel like i’m a burden aspergers”:

You are not a burden.

You are a human being, and your life can be rich, full, complete, fulfilling and meaningful on that basis alone.

You have the same natural right to life and equality and access and opportunity as anyone else does, and anyone who claims that you are a burden is insecure and ableist.

You are beautiful beyond vision, talented beyond measure, intelligent beyond comprehension and bursting with the amazing capacity to live well and meaningfully and to share your unique perspective and way of existing in the world with everyone you encounter.

You are not broken or defective or lesser. Don’t believe anyone who tells you so, whether explicitly or implicitly, because anyone who says that you are less than because your neurology is divergent from a constructed norm is lying to you.

Your neurology is divergent from the accepted “norm” of human neurologies, but that’s not a bad thing. You are OK the way you are. Your brain is beautiful.

You may learn differently than your peers, need certain supports, accommodations or services in order to have full and equal access, think differently than your colleagues, communicate differently than your family members or experience sensations differently than the other people around you.

But those differences are not bad. They are part of what makes your experience of life unique and beautiful.

You have the capacity for deep, unbounded empathy. You may be moved to action by egregious injustices, and you may be the first to speak up in the face of wrong. You may form brief connections with others that will impact them for a lifetime without you ever knowing, or you may find comfort and trust in only one or two friends over your own lifetime. You may take intense pleasure in solitude, and you may have the potential for wild creative exploits.

You will have struggles that non-Autistics won’t face. And you will share some of your struggles with your non-Autistic peers. You may find community among other Autistic people, knowing that there are people with whom you can share space and communicate shared struggles and joys without ever speaking a word.

Your only debt to society is to change the world for the better, even if all that means is a perfunctory encounter with a stranger that leaves another’s life a little bit better, another’s worries a little bit less daunting and frightening.

You don’t owe society anything else.

And you are not a burden to society if you need any form of accommodation to navigate this world. The society in which we live was not constructed around the needs and experiences of people like you and me. In fact, it ought to be the basic, minimum standard of human decency to ensure that you and I have equal access as everyone else. And sometimes that means making accommodations for us.

If a person in a wheelchair wants to enter a building, there should be a ramp long before he ever gets there. And if a blind person wants to read a book, there should be an audio version long before she ever searches for it. Because that’s making the world accessible for everyone instead of keeping the world accessible only for a few.

If I need written, visual instructions with clear deadlines to do my job, there should be no argument about it. That’s not me creating a burden. That’s me demanding my equal right to full participation. There’s no one correct way to do things or experience life. To exist differently in the world does not make you a burden on society.

I believe society’s burden is to compensate, however slowly, for its long train of abuses, disenfranchisement, marginalization, discrimination, dehumanization and paternalism perpetrated and perpetuated against those who have been denied power, equal rights, and self-determination. That is the burden that society bears.

Emily Titon, Lydia Brown, Shain Neumeier, Alyssa Hillary, Kassiane Sibley and Savannah Logsdon-Breakstone mutually stimming during a November 14, 2012 Autistic Self Advocacy Network annual gala at the National Press Club in Washington D.C.

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