Saturday 16 April 2016

Autism: Not a mental health condition. And about 'suffering'

One of the biggest misunderstandings out there? That autism is a 'mental health condition'.  It isn't.
At all.
It's no more a mental health condition than you being male, female, tall, short, or left handed is.
It is a design of human brain, from birth.  Our brains are designed to work differently.

I don't like stigma of any kind.  Not against autism, learning disability, physical health conditions, mental health conditions, or anything else.

I have had anxiety, depression and OCD because the intense pressure of living in a social world not designed for me.  Those are indeed mental health situations.  They are not autism.

Autism is a brain that handles too much incoming info at once, and doesn't always manage it too well.  Fantastic for detecting tiny changes in things.  Rubbish for handling noisy places filled with people.  Sooner or later, all that input causes our brain wiring to overheat, which hurts.  Then, we need it to literally cool down.  Simple, really.  So very simple.

Instead of understanding that simple thing, we've had a world of weirdness to contend with.  Counsellors and other healthcare people who believe it's our 'bad attitude'.  People who believe we are delusional, incompetent, malicious, rude, lazy or any number of other really horrible misunderstandings and nastiness.

We've had people cut us out of almost every service and provision, because 'people like that can't be trusted to know what's good for them'.  Or 'people like that can't be trusted to be a good addition to the group'.

How would you feel if they said that about you as a woman, or as a white person, or as someone with size seven feet?

It's a nonsense.  And it is so hurtful to autistic people. Whether we are verbal or not.

Assume competence.  Assume understanding.  And always always be respectful.

Whilst we're on the subject of respect, we do not 'suffer from' autism.  It is not a disease.  We suffer from other people making our lives hell.  With buildings that cause immense pain, with clothing that hurts like hell, with lighting that hurts our eyes and flickers at a frequency that causes epilepsy-like events in many.  With perfumes that swamp our senses.  With noise that absolutely deafens us.  With attitudes that belittle and 'other' us.

So easy to put this stuff right.  But the longer you leave us out of the room and pretend we are the problem, not the solution, not partners, not friends, not colleagues....well, the more 'suffering' for us there's going to be.  And we have had enough already, thanks.

Thank you for listening.