I'm Autistic and I Don't Want to Be 'Fixed'
Over the years, there have been many projects and campaigns that have been targeted towards spreading autism awareness. They have greatly varied from fundraisers to certain slogans, such as “Light up blue for autism,” just to name a few. Despite these efforts, many of the organizations that create them have been forgetting one thing — accepting us autistics for who we are.
For many years, society has always seemed to have the great urge to “fix” autistics. Now I’m not talking about how to manage anxiety or anything of that matter, I’m talking about how they present themselves. For instance, society has been trying to suppress interests that an autistic individual might have, as they might be seen as “weird.” What they don’t know is that this interest might be something that makes them unique and can lead them to a great career someday.
Another thing is that people would tell us that we need to hide our autism. Hide our autism? What the hell does that mean? Does that mean we find a hole and put our autism in there? On a serious note, this means that we should hide our characteristics, or what it is also known as masking. For instance, we should not do things like stimming or rocking to ourselves when we are anxious. What if this is something that helps an autistic to calm down? What if this helps them from imploding emotionally? Seriously, if they want to accept us autistics as who we are, then they have to take into account that these are the things some of us do in order to function.
Not only does suppressing such characteristics deprive us from being able to cope, but it could also lead to autistics being stigmatized internally and externally. For instance, being told that stimming is bad could lead to the notion that only bad autistics stim. This is not the mindset we need to have in order to progress as a society.
I have learned during my life that this grand idea of fixing is not just towards those with autism. Individuals dealing with mental health issues have also been affected by this fixing mentality. Throughout history, those with mental health diagnoses, ranging from anxiety to depression to bipolar to schizophrenia, have been seen as a burden. Whenever they were having symptoms, society of all levels would come to the rescue with their infinite wisdom in the hopes of fixing them.
This type of fixing included making their issues smaller by telling them to suck it up and to snap out of it. Nice encouragement, yes? Those individuals with extreme mental health issues were even hospitalized with no chance receiving the help they need. For many years this was the way of fixing those with mental health issues. This type of fixing led towards these individuals to be ashamed of their diagnoses and to keep it quiet. This would in turn lead them to not seek the help they need. Which would ultimately lead to them receiving no support throughout their lives.
This seems like a bleak picture, but there have been improvements. There have been those with mental health issues who have said that enough is enough and advocated for change. This type of advocacy has led towards more community mental health services and legislatures towards improving the lives of those with mental health issues, such as being able to obtain employment and housing. There has also been much improvement in the types of therapy that can be use, such as CBT for example, to help these individuals to cope with their symptoms. People with mental health issues also have been vocal about their diagnoses and feel that there is no shame with this. This is tremendous since this is coming from those with these issues.
The same could also be said about autistics. For the past few years many autistics have spoken up and have become self-advocates. These advocates, such as myself, have been vocal on having the right to obtain what is necessary to live a fulfilling life, such as employment, healthcare, housing, behavioral health services and much more. These advocates, as well as advocate organizations, have also made great strides towards groups who want to irradiate autism and see autistics as a disease, such as the organization responsible for the Light Up Blue campaign.
As you can see, much progress has been made for autistics and the mental health population. However, this is only one step and the good fight must continue. With that said, there is one thing I have to say. Before society wants to “fix” us, they should listen to us. This is the key needed for progress to grow.
Photo by Vicky Hladynets on Unsplash