Sunday, 16 February 2020
Do autistic people belong, in your group?
Where do you feel like you belong? Is it at home, with loved ones? At a gathering, with good friends? At an event, where you're fully part of the team, respected and valued?
There's all sorts of responses to autistic people, and it's so good to be part of a world where many have moved far from the 1940s thinking.
We've always belonged.
We've always been part of society. Everywhere you look in old literature, from the Bible onwards, you can see people describing autistic individuals. They just didn't need a separate word for it. People usually with honesty and integrity, but a different way of interacting, socially. People who thrive on routine, much as the Religious communities, schools, hospitals, and so many other places still do. People unafraid to challenge, to stand up for social justice, and to keep saying it until it happens. People watching for danger, listening for those tiny sounds of approaching predators or the faintest smell of smoke from an approaching fire. People dedicating their lives to crafts, music, art, farming, healthcare and so much more.
We're always belonged.
But society forgot it for long decades.
In that forgetting, autism became scapegoated. If something, anything, was bad, it was 'autistic'. We've had decades of being described as deficient, empathy-less, and so many other things that were deeply untrue and have caused immense harm. It's been normalised to talk about us as if we're not in the room, not reading social media, not studying the academic papers detailing a long list of alleged deficits. And yet, one by one, those alleged deficits have been proved wrong. As have the alleged 'treatments' that were supposed to 'cure' us of the neurodiversity that is autism.
At conferences, audiences are standing up against negative narratives. https://annsautism.blogspot.com/2018/03/and-audience-said-no-pivotal-moment-in.html (a blog that got some 40,000 readers interested - hurrah).
So now, we're belonging, again.
We've re-found one another, in growing numbers.
Many are contributing and collaborating again, thanks to social media.
We're being re-respected for our skills and abilities. Much more to be done, for sure.
We're standing up against negativity that has done nothing but drive so many to disaster and death, including families fed a terrifying narrative that benefited no-one at all. "If you don't give you child this ridiculous pointless expensive thing by age 5, they're doomed! Doomed, I tell you! Hand me your money. No, more money. No, all the money...Evidence Based, Evidence Based!". Don't fall for it. Ask for advice from autistic specialists, from Speech & Language Therapists with a specialism in autism, from Occupational Therapists who know how to improve autistic experiences. From proper professionals who have your wonderful child's best interests truly at heart.
We're re-taking our place in a society that temporarily forgot our worth.
Belonging is something that all human beings share.
We are all of full worth.
We all bring our whole selves to the world.
Every person, autistic or not, has their own set of things they need help with, things they need support with. No-one is fully independent unless they're living alone on an island somewhere, knitting their own clothes and catching their own food. We rely on one another all the time, for so many things. Look around you. How many people are involved in lighting and heating your space, in providing transport, road and rails? In making and growing your food? In getting fresh water to your house, and putting drains in? How many people do you rely on for company, for cheer, for shared collaboration, for work? Yet if autistic people need anything, it's framed as a 'cost to society'. Isn't that odd?
Some autistic people need a lot of support, and absolutely should have that. Support to thrive. Medical treatment for any actual medical conditions that are making life difficult of course. Support around any parents or carers who are providing love, effort and time.
Most autistic people work, or volunteer, or are retired, or are parents/carers, or are in academic studies. We had no idea until very recently.
So many other autistic people are emerging from the shadows where they have been forced to hide for those long decades.
We belong. So many of us work to make the world safer.
Let's do that together.