Please Stop Silencing Actual Autistics
I wanted to write this because I have experienced this more often than I can tell you.
It started when I was finally diagnosed in 2011 at the age of 33 years and 1 month and about 2 weeks. That means I got my diagnosis around Christmas. Yay. Joy. Not.
I have had someone somewhere trying to silence me ever since. And it makes no sense.
Some of the things I have been a target of silencing over:
“Well, you can read and write, you must not be autistic.” — Not even part of the diagnostic criteria.
“Well, your autism is not like our autism.” — Maybe not exactly, but I used to be there where you are.
“Well, you’re high functioning.” — I never use functioning labels because they are deceptive. And no. I am a moderate-severe autistic.
So let me tell you the latest trend. This actually happened on Facebook in what was supposed to be a support group for autistics as well as friends and family of autistics. In the group someone posted “I hate autism.” They apparently then rattled on about how their marriage was on the rocks and used autism as a scapegoat. Please do not do that.
She was told how her words could hurt by someone who is not only autistic but is raising an autistic. They doubled down on her. Then I posted my POV as an actual autistic about how reading words like that feel to me and to other autistics. And despite the fact that I made no specific reference to anyone about it and did not attack or judge anyone, I was accused of attacking, judging and creating drama. Then I was silenced and blocked from the group. All because after seeing posts that say “I hate autism,” I spoke up about reading such comments hurts me as an actual autistic.
So it is OK for a parent to express their feelings by saying they hate autism, but it is not OK for an autistic person to say that reading such statements hurts them? I also said in my post how comments like that make me feel unsafe. And all their actions did was reinforce the fact that I was not safe. Instead I was abused and silenced and since I am now blocked, I cannot even report them for it.
Here’s the thing. Autistic people have always existed. Some of us just did not get our diagnoses until we were adults. And the last I checked we are human beings who have feelings. If you are going to allow parents to air their feelings, especially the ones that call us damaged, injured, or say they hate us, then you must also allow actual autistics to express our feelings as well. Anything less than that is abusive and damaging to the cause.
Awareness is good, but what we want, nay, what we need as autistics is acceptance. I realize that acceptance is hard because it requires action, but it is necessary.
If not for autistic adults like myself, we would not have the services we now have for autistic children. If not for autistic adults like myself, we might not have hope for services for autistic children before they reach our age.
When you try to shout us down, shout over us or silence us, you are invalidating us and our experiences.
Autistic and other disabled people have a saying: Nothing about us without us. It stands true to this day.
We are here. Are you listening?
I use identity-first language. I accept that autism makes up every fiber of who I am and is not something that can be separated from me. And communication is not always with words (verbal or written), it can also be with art, music, math, science etc. so listening means more than with your ears. It can also be with your eyes and your heart.
This story originally appeared on Living and Thriving.