Saturday, 23 July 2016

How to write about autism, respectfully.

20 years of reading materials written by parents and carers of autistic children...professionals and therapists? There's all sorts of material. Good, bad, indifferent, and dangerous.
I'm going to look at how we write respectfully about autism.

For a start, assume we can read it.

No, really. 

Yes, to your mind, autistic may mean total incompetence. Never reading or writing or speaking. But that isn't autism. And if you mistake autism for those things, you will get a shock . We can hear you. We learn to read. We can feel.  We can think. And goodness me some of the things people write about us are searingly horrific.

Write with love.  By all means write about your exhaustion because of lack of services.
By all means write about your lack of training.  By all means write about your despair at the unfairness of the world for us.  But...

Respect means not portraying yourselves as martyrs.  As suffering saints.  
Respect means not writing about our meltdowns and shutdowns...a part of our ways that demean us.  Ways that portray us as monsters, as deficits. As sub human. The humiliation, the shame, of such writings cuts deeply into our self esteem. The people we trusted, putting our brain events into words that mock, that belittle.  It is not ok.  It is never ok. So many of us live with a lifetime of anxiety and sadness from the negativity about us. 

I brought up a fabulous autistic son.  I am autistic.  My husband is autistic. My friends number many who are autistic. I did not speak for ten years. I am sometimes nonverbal. I sometimes flap or rock. I line things up, and collect things. I also run a company and advise the Government. And I am every bit as human, as loving, as loved, and as worthwhile as everyone else.  I and my kind are not objects of pity, not some sort of way for you to gain an award as a human being for talking to us.  Not here to give you bonus points with God for being nice to us.  Goodness me that is so hurtful, when people think like that.  How very superior.  And how utterly wrong. All are equal in God's gaze.

Write with love.  With respect. With honour. And in the expectation that your fine young person understands every word you say, and every emotion you convey. Whether they speak or not. Whether they write or not. Whether they appear to read, or not. One day, they will look at you, and wonder why you made them an object for the public to gawp at. Perhaps for money.

Do not be that parent. Do not be that professional.

Work with us. Learn about us from us. Take all the good training you can get from autistic people.

And you will find a world of honesty. Integrity. Focus. Passion. Dedication. Persistence. Fun. 

Meantime, we all work for a world where there is better support. Let's do that together.