Embracing Autism

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.

 

Silent all these years

To the non verbal child,

I see the look on your face while your parent talks about you as you’re sitting right in front of us. I see the pain and horror in your eyes. I see how badly this affects you and how much you want to let your parent know you understand what they are saying. When they exploit to their friends and strangers your most vulnerable  moment. You understand. I know you do. Despite what they say. Despite what they believe. You know every single word.

I hear your parent say they are your voice. I see them write, saying that you are voiceless. Oh, sweet child, don’t believe these lies. There is no one who doesn’t have a voice. You have a voice that’s you. You have a voice that’s unique. You have a voice that’s beautiful. If you cannot or do not speak, you are not at fault. You are not broken. And you can still be an advocate. You can still do amazing things. Not because you’re disabled, but because you’re YOU.

Having a voice isn’t just speaking. Having a voice is body language. Your hands. Your eyes. The way you tap your feet. The shy, sly looks you shoot me to make me crack a smile. They say you don’t understand humor, but oh, if they could only hear your laugh. They say you are incapable of speaking for yourself and standing up for yourself. But you make your preferences known for your activities, for your clothes, for your food. If you can do those things, you can advocate in yourself in other ways.

I read your mother exploiting your most vulnerable moments on the Internet. That at age twelve, you aren’t toilet trained. That at age six, you had a really bad accident in the soda pop aisle at HippeMart and your mom went into details about how awful it was for HER. I know every last detail of your meltdowns and sensory overloads. And quite frankly, I shouldn’t.

Precious child, I love you. I don’t know you. I may never interact with you and all I may be is words you read on your screen some day. But if I met you and you chose to honor me with your voice – however you chose to use it would be heard loud and clear.

And I said sometimes I hear my voice and it’s been here…
Silent all these years

Xoxo,

Nora.

EDITOR’S NOTE. READ THIS BEFORE COMMENTING AND ABLESPLAINING. 

I am not saying it is easy to be a parent. I am not diminishing how hard it is to have a child with disabilities. I welcome the voice of parents and parent advocates. But if it’s not something you would want posted about yourself on the Internet, if it isn’t something you would post about your non disabled child, do not post it about your disabled child. Full. Stop. No. Excuse. Peace out.