This post is about something that I think I was actually only just made aware of: World Autism Awareness Day. Also, the fact in America it’s National Autism Awareness Month. Most of it seems to be about the benign goal of raising awareness of autism and promoting inclusion and acceptance of autistic people. And that’s all well and good, but there are some autistic people I know who don’t much care for this time of year. From what I understand, this is because of the presence of an organization known as Autism Speaks, along with their annual Light It Up Blue campaign (which is basically just people wearing blue ribbons, or blue clothes, and lighting up landmarks with the color blue, in the apparent hope that this will make things better for the autistic community).
If you don’t know them, let’s just say they’re the worlds worst autism spokespeople, if they can even be called that. This is a charity organization whose members openly refer to autism as a health crisis and as something that ruins the lives of people who have to deal with it, and they make the idea of “curing” autism a basic part of their stated mission. From what I heard, they even released a video called Autism Everyday where the most recognizable moment is one of their members openly states to have contemplated murder-suicide between her and her autistic daughter as opposed to letting her go to school – in front of her no less! – and only doesn’t go through with it because she has another daughter who isn’t autistic. There was also another video they released called I Am Autism, which they’ve since deleted. All of this is still nothing compared to the fact that the organization allies with the Judge Rotenberg Center: what are they known exactly? Oh yes, they’re known for advocating electroshock treatment in the 21st century. Specifically they shock autistic people for small infractions and apparently no reason, apparently in the hope that they can get rid of autism. Remember back when people actually thought electroshock treatment was a good idea because they thought homosexuality was something to be cured? You know, before we realized being gay was just as natural as being straight? If you remember that, then the idea of shocking autistic people into not being autistic people should seem just as immoral and egregious. Of course, not that any alliance with JRC contradicts Autism Speaks’ commitment to autism – remember, they view it as something to be gotten rid of!
Some of you who have read my blog before know that I am an autistic person myself. You may not know this, because I rarely bring it up on the blog. This is because, while I’m aware of autism as a part of me (believe me, I’ve been aware of it for almost all of my life), I haven’t dwelled on it enough, at least in recent years, to give it too much influence in my affairs. But I’ve gotta say, just the idea of what Autism Speaks is doing is just plain wrong in my eyes, and I totally sympathize with why autistic people would hate the whole Autism Awareness malarky – to them, it’s all about a detached, psychotic charity organization that wants to get rid of them, all because people don’t want to deal with the whole concept of the autistic spectrum and learning disorders without seeing it as some kind of disease to be cured so that the people “afflicted” can experience normalcy.
I personally am apathetic towards the Autism Awareness stuff, and haven’t paid much notice to it before. Even as an autistic person, I see it as about as much a meaningless promotion event as Black History Month or Remembrance Sunday. It’s all a show to focus attention on charities instead of actually treating autistic people like human beings with needs and emotions instead of a problem that needs to be solved. And look, I see the need for a change in how we view autistic people. The way I see it, we have a problematic attitude towards it. I mean fuck, look at my country. The Daily Mail actually runs story claiming the possibility of a “cure” for autism, another story where they’re genuinely surprised that autistic people actually care about other people, and many other bullshit stories surrounding autism and how they feel and it can solved simple as that. Given this country’s tendency to suckle itself with yellow journalism, there’s a ton of people who probably read this shit and take it as their bread and butter. As someone who’s still too young to viably afford car insurance (which is terribly expensive if you’re under 25), I only have to go on any form of public transport to see average Joes and Janes actually still read the papers in the way I describe. Aside from that, I have personally had to live with even my direct family having a problematic attitude towards it, particularly when I was a kid – I’ve had siblings who used to think of it as an excuse to get away with anything without consequences, a Dad who so far still thinks of it as a reason that I can’t get a driver’s license, and a Mom who has had a history of citing it as a reason for thinking and often acting a certain way. And in school, people who just have autism, like me, are put in the same category as everyone else with every other special need because they don’t function the way normal people do, even those with disabilities that are either more profound or severe, or otherwise different entirely. Hell, we have a problematic attitude towards special needs in general, and I’ve been told by a good friend that people would actually abort their children specifically because they might have Downs’ syndrome. We could do with a much better attitude towards autistic people, along with people with special needs in general. But really, I don’t think we’re going to solve much by making everything blue for a day, or a month, let alone in support of an organization that doesn’t give a crap about people on the autistic spectrum – just whiny parents who obviously don’t like dealing with autism or autistic children very much.
One last thing on Autism Speaks: their whole outlook on autism seems to me as not just egregious, but also actually emotionally stunted. The idea of wanting to get rid of autism just seems like the product of angst and frustration, and I would know. When I was in high school, I was prone to the misguided belief that I was a failure because of my autistic tendencies, and I sometimes asked “why can’t I not be like this?”. But, as is often attested to be the case in high school, this did not last. And throughout, I’ve at least had support good enough to convince that being autistic doesn’t mean being defective or a failure, and in time I came to my senses. People who want autism to be cured obviously sound like people who haven’t gotten past that, and that’s peculiar considering pretty much everyone who thinks of autism as a disease that can be “cured” isn’t autistic to begin with!