by Cas Faulds
Another week, another person with a public platform spouting uninformed opinions about the causes of autism. It would be getting boring except that it’s incredibly hurtful and harmful.
I’m pretty sure that most parents of autistic children have heard this question at some point in time:
“Don’t you want to know what causes autism?”
My simple answer is no, I don’t want to know what causes autism. I accept my son for exactly who he is. I do not need to know what exactly caused him to be the awesome person that he is. People have said that I’m lucky that he’s awesome because not every autistic child is, but I wonder whether that’s because those children can sense the unresolved questions that their parents have about why they are the way they are. I know that I could sense that in my parents when I was a child. I could sense their unease about me; their unspoken (and sometimes spoken) questions about what was wrong with me, what could have caused me to be that way, and what they could do to fix me.
That’s the problem: When you question the cause of autism, you show a lack of acceptance towards autistic people. That hurts! That tells us that you don’t want us. It tells us that you want to know what caused us so that you can prevent us from being who we are. It tells our children that they are unwanted by the world.
When we speak out against this – when we try to tell everyone that we deserve to be here as much as anyone else deserves to be, we’re accused of being angry. Our children are accused of being angry when they try to assert their right to do what is most comfortable for them. We get told: if only you could all act more like neurotypical people, then you would gain acceptance from everyone.
Imagine if everyone started questioning what caused people to be neurotypical. Imagine if everyone started talking about how we could prevent people from being neurotypical. Imagine if everyone decided that neurotypical children should be subjected to 30-40 hours of therapy per week in order to ensure the “best outcome.” It’s not really a great thing to imagine. It really is a bit nightmarish.
But, that imagined scenario is our reality. We live with that every day, and our children live with it when people whisper those questions to their parents. You don’t need to know what caused us to be us in order to accept us – all you need to do is accept us for who we are. Maybe I’m being naive, but I really do believe that it is that simple.