It seems like every time I turn around lately, I see being autistic as a burden. I see beautiful autistic children have every detail of their lives painted out on the internet, under the guise of “acceptance” and “awareness”. While I won’t deny we need more acceptance (awareness is for the birds, really and has such ableist underlinings), the way people are going about doing it these days? Kind of awful.
What if we fully embraced autism? What if we embraced being autistic? What if instead of listing the ways it makes our lives suck – because let’s face it, it’s not all sunshine and rainbows. Sensory overload is painful, meltdowns suck donkey balls, and some of the things it makes my brain do? I hate it. I truly do. But I don’t hate being autistic. I don’t hate stimming. I don’t hate obsessively watching movies or playing video games. I don’t hate being autistic.
What if instead of painting out how hard it is to parent an autistic child, we treated them with the same love and dignity that we would treat their sibling or another child the same age? We would be horrified if a parent went into gross detail about their teenagers bowel habits. It should be the same for an autistic teenager.
We should not say that, at age three, you will be burdened with your child for life. That your child will never live on their own. So many of us were told we would never be capable of being on our own. I can tell you that people doubted I could ever be on my own. I have extensive in home supports, but I am on my own. Autistic. And loving life.
We should not mock their food choices or limited diets. Rather, enjoy it. Embrace it. Love the fact they have a food they can eat and makes them happy. And hey, it’s less effort for you, right? Win win. Mocking quirks is not funny. It is cruel. Trust me when I say we understand. Even the ones who do not use their voice. Even the ones who you say are “locked away”. We all understand.
What if instead of making having autistic children out to be a big chore, we are fucking grateful for the child we have? Instead of being pissed at what the world gave us, we are delighted to have such a wonderful child in our lives? No, it may not be “what you signed up for”, but once you decide to have a child you lose all those choices. Anything can happen.
Together, we can end the stigma. Together, we can teach our children, teenagers, and adults that they aren’t burdens for something that they have no control over. That they aren’t little shits, that they aren’t out to make our lives miserable, that they are worthy of love and acceptance just like any other person.
All we have to do is embrace every part of them – autism and all. You cannot “hate the autism, but love the child”. It’s akin to hating anything that’s beyond their control and is cruel. Love your child. Treat your child with dignity and respect. And above all else, don’t silence their voice.