Today is Global Autistics Speaking Day
“To raising Autism awareness and Acceptance, and battling negative stereotypes about Autism. To advocate for the inclusion of Autistic people in the community. To offer a forum to broadcast our stories and thoughts, and to help the messages of Autistic people and non-Austistic allies reach as many people as possible.”
In case that wasn’t obvious already. I am speaking up.
Yeah. I know. I don’t seem like it. Most of us don’t fit the stereotypes that the media portrays. That’s the trouble with a multi-dimensional spectrum – we are all different to the point of active contrast.
Because so many of us can’t speak, or are afraid to speak, I’ll do the scary thing right here on my corner of the internet. It’s always scary – talking about this.
What we want you to know
I can’t speak for every autistic person in the community – we are all very, very different. I speak for myself and many others who feel the same way. I speak for many people who choose to remain anonymous because of the way we’re minimized, judged, and treated when we come out as autistic. I speak for those of us who don’t think autism is a flaw or a disease, but a natural variation in humanity.
It’s like being a lefty. Or having green eyes, or being a racial minority.
What we want you to know is that who we are and how we think is not less – it’s just different. Some of us wish we could change (most of us, at times, when things get hard). But many of us – autistic and non-autistic alike, see the value autistic brains add to humanity. We like the way we are. The only trouble is that our society is not inclusive and welcoming to those of us who think, understand, and communicate in alternative ways. The same way skin bleach is not the answer to racism, a ‘cure’ is not the answer to the difficulties autistic people face today.
We should absolutely work on therapies to help those of us with communication and health challenges. We should absolutely support families who struggle to make ends meet while raising children on the spectrum with the challenges that entails. We should help autistic adults find positions in our community where they can contribute to our economy, or social circles, and our culture.
But first, let’s just start with a big challenge that many autistic children face. We are very often born to non-autistic families. We’re born to parents who love and adore us, but who were completely unprepared to raise a different type of thinker than themselves.
The same way we find swaths of our social norms baffling, non-autistics have a very hard time making sense of how we think. Some of us are lucky enough to have parents who accept us for who we are and take steps to teach us how to live in a world made for non-autistic people. Some of us grow up in families who focus on changing the world to be autistic-friendly, rather than making us more ‘normal.’
Some of us are not – some of us are looked at as diseased, as something to fix, as a burden. Some of us are murdered by our own families. Most of us are shamed for the way we are in a million invisible ways, every day.
In the last few decades, well-meaning non-autistic people (often parents of autistics) have created organizations dedicated to the awareness, curing, and even obliteration of our tribe. The intention comes from a kind place – but it all starts with the flawed presumption that being autistic is bad, and being non-autistic is the goal for humanity’s future. Autistic people do not serve on the boards of these organizations. Autistic people don’t have a say when we’re used as marketing propaganda, when we’re treated as pity-cases, when we’re passed over for employment, opportunities to contribute, and adoption. Autistic minors don’t have a say when parents publicly ‘out’ them, making education, employment, and social connections later in life more difficult.
This is something I’ve been working to fix.
It’s a fine line – trying to combat the shame put on us for thinking differently while protecting the identities of minors who could (will) face judgement when they are outed as autistic. There is the way the world should be and the way the world is. This is an obstacle I’m still navigating.
You know in X-Men, when the non-mutants keep passing laws and making angry faces and shaming their own children for being born with super powers? That is exactly how many of us feel. It’s a silly parallel, but it’s true. We are the mutants. We are the Teslas and the Jobs and the Einsteins and the Sams and the writers and photographers who focus on advancing humanity forward. From engineers to grocery baggers, each one of us has a place in our community that helps and advances humanity. This is not because we are autistic – this is because we are ordinary humans. Just like the non-autistic humans among us, with careers and children and hobbies and lives.
We are not a burden. We are not less. We are not ‘high-functioning’ or ‘low-functioning.’ We are not to be cured. We are not to be complimented for passing, or pitied for choosing not to pass. We are not to be euthanized, shot for acting weird, or victimized. We are not flaws in humanity. We are not more or less dangerous than any other person. We are not all children. We are not sexless. We are husbands and wives and parents and leaders. We are not a pile of symptoms in a human wrapper – autism does not define us, but it does connect us to each other and create challenges for us all.
Our actual challenges will remain until we can dispel the myth that an autistic mind is a lesser mind. We don’t need a cure for autism. We need a cure for our society. We want more than awareness – and we want more than acceptance. Tolerance is not enough. We want a society that places value on our abilities and strengths and accepts our weaknesses the same way it does for non-autistics. We want this for ourselves, and we want this for everyone.
2016 Posts About Autism from Ashia Ray Photography
This is the only documentary in the Somewhere Out There series that hasn’t gone viral and inspired mentors or adoptive families to come forward. I think it’s because Markel is autistic – and biracial. As an autistic biracial person, am I angry about that? You bet your ass I am. So are we going to step up and share Markel’s story? YES WE ARE. It’s up to us to speak up and search for an adoptive family for Markel. This means you, too.
Understanding transitions and throwing out our ideas of how we ‘should look’ in photos is the first step to creating amazing photographs of autistic people. If you’re a photographer, or a parent looking for a photographer who can do your autistic kid justice, then this is a must-read.
A Books For Littles Book Bin celebrating neuro-diversity
The lonely, confusing experience of growing up as an un-diagnosed female on the autism spectrum.
When I came out to clients and the public as autistic – and why.
Other things we want non-autistics to know
The Spoon Theory by Christine Miserandino on what it’s like to live with an invisible disability.
A Comic Crushes Stereotypes about the Autism Spectrum by Rebecca Burgess
Reticulating Splines by Luna Lindsey expanding Spoon Theory and switching gears
The Difference Between ‘High Functioning’ and ‘Low Functioning’ Autism by Romana Tate. Hint: Both are not helpful.
Am I Autistic or Do I Have Autism? By Alex Lowery on self-identification.
The majority of the autistic population prefers to be called ‘autistic’ but please respect the wishes of each individual.
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Names and locations of minors may have been changed to protect privacy. This post may contain Amazon affiliate links (all my 2016 profits fund my do-goodery Invisible Obstacles and Somewhere Out There Series). If you’d like to support do-goodery projects, book your own documentary session or, contribute on Patreon.
Leave a comment below if you agree or disagree that photography has the power to change how we see autism