Autism Acceptance Month – Day 6

There’s a strange division in the Autism world.  Most “Autism professionals”, a large number of “Autims parents” and some Autistic people on one side, while a large contingent of Autists, a smaller one of parents, a and still smaller group of professionals are on the other.

The media, and the ‘general public’, that large group of people at whom “Awareness” campaigns are targeted, tend towards the first group; the side that considers Autism an affliction; even an illness or disease.  This group calls for cure, or treatment, or mitigation of Autism “symptoms”, and speaks of the burden on society, the burden on parents, the terrible tragedy of the child, stolen from their mother and locked in that Autistic shell.  Changeling rhetoric.

The other group, which includes me, considers that although Autism is by no means a soft and safe path, it isn’t a tragedy, and that much of the disabling side of being autistic comes from the way society is designed around ‘typicality’.

Typically, people can see, hear, walk, speak and read.  Typically, people identify with the gender they were assigned at birth, and are attracted to people of the opposite gender.  And typically, people have a strong inclination towards socialisation, not to mention being perceived by others as typical.

But being atypical in one or more areas is surely far more likely than being bog-standard typical? (I don’t have stats on that). I’ve never been able to understand why people can’t recognise kinship in that brokenness that comes from being treated as less than – less than them, less than perfect, less than human.

In a world where being Autistic was as acceptable as wearing glasses is today, what would that acceptance look like?  I’m not talking about flipping the tables and making Autism the norm (although that’s a fun hypothetical to explore), I just mean where people just accepted Autism as a normal variation of humanity.

Well, just going from my own autistic stressors,

  • People would warn you before they had to do something loud, or turn a light on, and would give you time to prepare
  • Strong perfumes would be viewed in the same way smoking has come to be viewed.  Not appropriate for an indoor space where others may be uncomfortable with it
  • There wouldn’t be any tags in clothes.  Clothes don’t need tags.
  • “I’m not feeling social” would be an acceptable excuse for not going out, and would not generate a dozen further questions
  • Businesses, services and other organisations who needed to contact you would offer at least three options for contact – phone, email or chat, and face-to-face.
  • Communication would be direct and clear, and include guidelines on what to expect when someone’s entering a new place or situation.

These are little things.  Not extraordinary, not ‘special’ needs.  Reasonable, and achievable, without even putting much of an onus on the allistic person.

I often note that hospitals will spend thousands of dollars putting ramps and lifts and other accessibility equipment in place to ensure they are seen as being equitable, but a staff member will not spent two minutes finding a quiet, dimmed room for an autistic adult or child who’s on the verge of a sensory overload.  If they did, they might have been able to save themselves a situation requiring 45 minutes, three nurses, two doctors, the physio from down the hall, and hospital security.

Acceptance doesn’t always have to be radical and obvious.  You don’t need to make people aware of difference if you’re accepting of people’s atypicality, you just need to be alert for people expressing distress or a need, and find a workable solution.  You just need to be supportive.


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