April is coming.
We all know what that means.
A whole lot of talk about autism.
Some of it constructive.
A lot of it really damn DEstructive.
My dear friend, M, who is autistic, recently wrote:
One of the most common complaints I hear from parents with children on the spectrum is that, when they tell someone “My child has autism”, the person responds with “Oh, I’m so sorry”. Even if the child is standing right there*. It’s an amazingly hurtful, disrespectful thing to say.
I think to some degree, “awareness” months and too many advocacy groups create this problem by only discussing autism in terms of deficits, burdens and loss. They scare people into seeing autism as a boogeyman…and the person on the spectrum being discussed, with all of their feelings and thoughts and complexity…they get lost that rhetoric, discarded.
I know I’ve been looking for messages that emphasize respect for autism…that present people on the spectrum as human beings, not “burdens”. A message of respect doesn’t mean there are no tough days, no challenges…but it does mean that we need to carefully incorporate autistics into these messages and not lose sight of their value and dignity.
He wasn’t finding the message he was looking for. So he created it.
And it, like him, is a thousand kinds of awesome.
Awareness is a good start when it comes to autism issues, but too often “awareness” has meant discussions about impairments and “deficits”. Some of us want more than that. We want to elevate these concepts so that any discussion about autism can be both beneficial for those seeking information and empowering for those being discussed.
It takes strength to move beyond awareness. But the difficulty level just makes goals like acceptance and respect all the more valuable. Check out the shirts. Take the challenge. Start a conversation.