What do those words mean, to you?
Whose image comes to mind, when you think of each one?
What characteristics does that person have? What do they look like? Are they old, young? Are they white, a person of colour? Are they straight, gay, bisexual, trans, asexual? Are they fit and able, disabled, different? Are they of some particular faith, or none?
Who deserves love?
Who deserves their life to be honoured and respected?
Our unconscious biases sometimes betray us.
With autism, there's a lot of bias. Unconscious or otherwise.
For too many years, a few professionals urged parents to portray autism as disaster. That way, they would get all the services they needed. Allegedly.
But, the consequences of that had ramifications for us all.
The quiet, well behaved ones. The gentle, caring ones. The wise, noble ones. The creative, artistic ones. The ones who are parents. The ones who are in deeply loving relationships. Those who are church leaders. Those who are lawyers, accountants, craftspeople, musicians, choir leaders, spiritual directors. So many....so many all told that they could only be identical to the worst example. All. Always.
The portrayal of all autism as 'anger' , as inauthentic, as non-empathetic, has created a terrible inauthenticity of its own. A terrible legacy.
Now, we are often only allowed to be 'angry'.
Also, vengeful. We have to be vengeful. Apparently.
Let's not forget destructive and manipulative. We have to be those things, it seems. Very important. Allegedly.
That is the role given to us. We cannot be ourselves. We have to be the thing-that-others-say.
I want to be myself, not a parody of me as described by people who have met me for seconds, or not at all.
And if we are actually angry about the same things as others are angry about...well, that's a sign of our 'challenging behaviour'. Others can be angry, we can only be 'challenging'. Double standards.
It becomes a desperation by some to prove the point, too. A desperation to pick about in our words and phrases, our demeanour and presentation. Anything, anything at all that shows that 'people were right'.
"Ooo look, we found one out of two million who did something illegal. That proves it!" "I met an autistic person and...gosh....they seemed so sullen, they didn't look me in the eye....must be monsters....run!! Run whilst you still can!!! They'll destroy all!!" <cue dramatic music and possible sounds of thunder in the distance>
We can now stop to look for this vision of the two million people in the UK all rampaging over the hillside in your direction. Well presumably that's what people imagine is about to happen.
Any sign of us yet?
What about now?
Anything yet? <peers out of the window>
.....time passes.....tumbleweed blows across the scene.....autistic people continue with their very ordinary but different lives...loving, caring, praying, sharing...
There is no angry destructive costly mob of two million 'angry autistic people'.
It was a nonsense. Sorry, but it was.
I've lost count of how many times the proposers of this constant-anger have portrayed me as angry, when I am not. As vengeful, when I am not. As frustrated, when I am not. As nasty, when I am not. As 'about to sue', when no such thing ever happens. Sheer desperation. Or projection of inner fears. One of the two. Mistaking the way I communicate for something it is not, perhaps. Perhaps it's because it's easier to keep portraying people like me as 'the problem' rather than admit that really bad things have happened to us.
I keep loving, and praying. I keep hoping for others' lives to be filled with good things. For them to find love, and peace, and caring. For them to share good friendships of their choosing, and find the healing their lives may need for any crisis that arises.
And I'll keep loving and praying, sharing, teaching, advising. That, my friends, is the outcome of encounter with me.
People need to own their own fears, and not project them onto us.
Get to know autistic people. Get to meet us. We are not something to be afraid of.
You are OK
We are OK
And it's OK for us to be different to one another.
Some of us need support. I do.
I work hard to ensure that families, carers and autistic people get that support, that good training, those good and worthwhile lives. In honour. In love. In respect.
Thank you for listening.