I am not autistic, but quite a few people in my extended family are. Because I love them, and because my personality is such that when something is important to those I love, I dive in and learn about that thing. In this case, it was autism.
Sad to say, since their marketing is ridiculously prevalent, I found Autism Speaks first. Luckily, I pretty quickly found A Diary of a Mom, and through her I hit “paydirt” – autistic bloggers. Life Changing!
Something else I found, and this is really upsetting, are the non-autistic parents of autistic children who DISMISS autistic people because – in the eyes of these NON-autistic parents – the autistic people aren’t autistic ENOUGH. Let me let the massive irony of that sink in – NON autistic (people who are not autistic AT ALL) are telling AUTISTIC people that they don’t have ENOUGH autism to share their experiences… yeah.
Apparently, to share information about autism, autistic people have to go through some sort of “E-Harmony dating site” of autism where you have to match up in “29 key dimensions” in order to be allowed to share your autism experiences. <sarcasm>
I’m going to illustrate something with a simple comparison. Let’s assume, for the sake of this post, that being autistic is like being pregnant (except you can choose to get pregnant, and you have a baby at the end).
You either ARE pregnant, or your NOT pregnant. It DOESN’T MATTER how pregnant you are, you are. Once you are pregnant, you are considered to have been pregnant – Primigravida. The fact of your pregnancy doesn’t go away.
NOW, as a pregnant person, I CAN tell you about MY pregnancy, because something about my pregnancy may mirror yours. It won’t be the same, but the root is the same = pregnant. If I’ve been pregnant before, or am farther along in my pregnancy (i.e. the pregnancy is OLDER), I can share MORE stories about how my body/life/experiences have changed during the pregnancy. Again, my experience will be different, BUT the root – pregnancy – is the same.
A person who is 3 months pregnant has a shorter experience of pregnancy than an 8 month pregnant person – but the 3 month person isn’t considered “not pregnant enough”, they are just at different points in the pregnancy experience. And is the experience of pregnancy at 3 months the same as the experience at 8? No. Pregnancy, like people, change over time as they grow/mature.
A NON pregnant person can share what pregnancy LOOKS like, what they’ve been TOLD it’s like, what it appears to be like, but they have NO experience with pregnancy as a pregnant person. Their best resource for experiential information is to LISTEN to PREGNANT people.
Same with autism. A person either is or ISN’T. A person isn’t “a little bit autistic”, but AUTISTIC. A person isn’t “not autistic enough”, but AUTISTIC. An autistic child will not remain an autistic child – they will grow, and change, and mature, into an autistic adult. They are not in stasis.
It really is THAT simple.
So please, for the sake of your children, and those you love who are on the autism spectrum – STOP with the “not autistic enough to share” bull. It’s hurtful, and it’s flat out wrong. It’s hurtful to the autistic person you’re dismissing because they don’t “match” your experience. But you are also hurting YOUR CHILDREN, and to YOURSELF, when you don’t listen to autistic people about autism.