Saturday 1 April 2017

Autism Acceptance Month - Time to Listen

A blog by Ann Memmott, who is autistic, and for ten years, was non-verbal.  Still is, sometimes.  A Christian.

'Autism acceptance month'.  

Some call it 'autism awareness month'.  The autistic community generally do not.  You see, most people are 'aware' of autism.  But the way it's been done, over the last few years, has been largely negative.

I ventured onto social media yesterday, and was met with a barrage of the most appalling things about autism.  Parents, carers and organisations posting up item after item about our 'deficits'.

"Come see Autism Awareness Materials - I'll tell you about my child Sam.  He has toilet issues, he eats dirt, he is violent - this is autism, honest guv".  Complete with pictures of Sam.  Might as well give out Sam's address too.   After all, if we're going to humiliate a child, we might as well do it properly with all the details?  No, that's not a serious suggestion.  It's a comment to make people think.


What is that doing?

Are the people concerned making the lives of autistic people better, by saying humiliating things about their child to the world, using their name and picture?  Are they?  Really?

Do you know the suicide rate for autistic people?  Do you think it could be in any way connected with being brought up by carers who do this kind of thing?

Autistic children are not vegetables.  We see, we hear.  A surprising number of 'non-verbal' autistic children can understand everything they hear, and from a huge distance, thanks to super-sensitive hearing for many.  If you are told you are a deficit, a disaster, a disappointment....if your experience of love is your parent parading you about as a set of problems....telling people how you have destroyed their do you feel?

Autistic people are often told that we lack empathy, lack understanding. Mmm, no.  I put it to you that I see a huge lack of empathy for autistic people, every single 'awareness month'.  People supporting charities that are arguably eugenics-based.  People 'lighting it up blue', and thus supporting an organisation feared by most autistic adults.  People claiming that people like me aren't 'real autistic people' like their child. People saying God will cure us whether we want that or not.  People deciding we all suffer, without consulting us.

We are their child, when their child grows up.  Me and so many other autistic advocates and professionals.  Verbal or non-verbal.  Of all IQs and backgrounds.

And the people who are saying and doing this stuff to their children need to stop and listen.

Yes, we all need better support, funding and training in place, to enable every autistic person and their family/carers to lead good lives.

No, we do not benefit from being listed as a set of disasters in front of the public.

If people tell the public we are nothing but a set of disasters, all two million of us in the UK, then what are we achieving?  Jobs?  No.  Support?  No.  Friendships for us?  No.  We are making it harder than ever before for us to succeed.  We are boosting that suicide rate, and lowering the life expectancy.  It's not working.  At all.

Most autistic people are not violent.  Many work hard for world peace and for charities and faith groups of all kinds.
Most autistic people are not disaster.  We can bring huge strengths and wonderful insights.
All autistic people - whether verbal or not, whether of lower IQ or any other IQ - are much loved children of God.

Most are kind, gentle, generous people.  Sometimes in extreme pain or fear because of the misunderstanding and maltreatment.  That's the suffering - being put into sensory and social environments that cause pain.

All are loved.
All are valued
All are to be respected.

Respect your child.  Say nothing in public that wrecks their chances of respect, friendships and a good future.  Yes, being a carer can be tough.  But think about the impact on your child, from saying what you're saying, in public.  I've lost count of the parents who said to me, "But my child will never talk and will never understand, so it has no impact on them".  Oh my.  Oh dear.  No.  Wrong.

Read good autism acceptance materials, from autistic bloggers and professionals.
Go to good autism events run with and by autistic specialists.
Support organisations that are supported by autistic individuals.
Look for #redinstead and #actuallyautistic or 'Light it up Gold' materials on social media.

Get to know us.  I have never been so proud of a group of people, my autistic family and friends, colleagues and fellow professionals.  Just absolutely wonderful.  And if you start with that attitude, good things happen.

Thank you for listening.

Picture description:   The picture at the top is a box with the words, "Autism Acceptance  - Because we're fabulous'.  There is also a picture of the autism community's chosen symbol, an infinity loop in rainbow colours.  This is a good symbol for autism acceptance, rather than the 'puzzle piece' logo used by some others.