I am a rather quiet advocate. I don’t often get into debates and generally avoid conflict (in real and online life). I usually have a pacifist or diplomatic approach. However this doesn’t mean that I don’t hold strong opinions and sometimes I do get sucked into an argument when I just can’t ignore ableist or ignorant comments any longer.
There are few misconceptions about autism acceptance and neurodiversity that consistently get repeated by parents of autistic children, to the point that people take them as fact. What follows are some myths I’ve been trying to deconstruct in the recent past (not sure if been successful quite honestly, but – I tried).
People that preach autism acceptance believe it’s all rainbows and unicorns
I can’t believe I just typed the above sentence. It seems like a comical idea, doesn’t it? And yet it is THE MOST used argument I’ve come across against neurodiversity. Repeat after me- we do not think anything is rainbows or unicorns. We never say it, we never think it, we feel ridiculous even repeating it. What does that even mean?!
Autism acceptance is for the “quirky autistics”
We believe everyone should be accepted for who they are. Everyone. The more support someone requires, the more he/she benefits from an inclusive and accepting society.
If you accept your child as they are that means you don’t try to teach them anything or don’t treat any of their medical conditions
We teach our children anything/everything they are able to learn. We feed them, take them to the doctor, get them glasses, give them medicine and buy them clothes. And we accept them as they are.
Autistic advocates believe autism is a special gift
Well, some might. But most just believe it is a big part of who they are. And they are sick of being told that it is a horrible tragedy to be how they are. And are tired of listening to parents bemoaning how the life they wanted was stolen by autism. And most of all, they can’t understand why they have to keep justifying that they should be entitled to feel proud of themselves, in spite of society constantly bombarding them with messages that the way they are is inherently wrong, an “epidemic” and a burden.
Autistic advocates “pick on” parents
A lot of parents (myself included) have never heard of neurodiversity prior to having an autistic child. We are indoctrinated with the medical/pathological view of autism, and so much of what the advocates say might seem radical and hard to accept. It’s hard to be challenged in our beliefs. It is hard to be confronted with our deeply-held biases and prejudices. It is hard to be told that the method of therapy we have carefully chosen for our child was traumatizing for autistic adults who had it as children. That does not mean we are “picked on”. It might mean that we need to listen more and argue less.
Autistics who can write are not like my child, he/she will never write or communicate meaningfully. What they say doesn’t apply to our life
First of all everyone communicates. My daughter doesn’t speak, but she communicates very well. She is four. She might not ever speak but we are building on her communication attempts, we are teaching her AAC and we honour any way she’s able to express her needs and wants. I find what other autistics say, especially the non speaking ones very valid and enlightening for our journey.
I have a right to say how I feel, my feelings are my own and expressing them is healthy
While that is true, there is a time and a place for expressing our “own real and personal feelings”. A public forum where many people of various neurologies are is not one of them. Just as you shouldn’t speak in front of your child of how much you hate autism, you shouldn’t go into a public page or blog and say the same. And on that note…
I love my child but hate autism and I have a right to feel this way!
Of course this response could be a post all in itself. But I’ll just say this – love is unconditional. There is no caveats, no “I love this part of you but not that part”, no “if you do this I’ll stop loving you” and no “I’d love you more if you were different”. There’s just love.
The best gifts a parent can bestow upon their child are self-esteem and acceptance. Is driving them to hating a significant part of themselves the way to achieve that?
I am sure there are lots of other common acceptance misconceptions I’ve forgotten, so feel free to share any you’ve come across/argued against.