I would like to welcome the newest member of our writing team, Emily Aviva Kapor. In her first post with us, she talks about how to be an ally to autistic people. Thanks for sharing with us, Emily!
Editor’s note: The events referred to in this article happened in April.
I am autistic. The way I experience the world is different than the way most other people do. I haven’t written much about this publicly yet, and I am continuing to learn to be comfortable with being an autistic adult and moving through the world with this part of my identity. Here, though, is something I wrote two weeks ago for the so-called “Autism Awareness Day” and posted to Facebook; I thought I’d edit it slightly and share it more widely here in honor of the much better idea of Autism Acceptance Month.
I’m trying hard, for purposes of self-care, to avoid thinking too much about autism today. But being autistic, it’s not the sort of thing I can turn on and off for an Autism Awareness Day—every day for me is autism awareness day. Now, that said, I have only a few things to say to anyone interested in being my ally this Autism Acceptance Month.
1. Dear neurotypical people: please don’t presume to tell me how I ought to and ought to not live my life.
2. I don’t need to be “cured”; I need to be loved.
3. Autism does not only affect children. Autistic adults are all around you. We are grown-up members of society. We drive cars, we teach your children, we deserve respect. Do not forget us; do not abandon us.
4. Respect the constant struggle and the constant expenditure of spoons some of us have to maintain our standing in neuronormative society. This is not a struggle with or against autism, it’s a struggle with society’s perceptions and preconceptions about autistic people. That is my true struggle.
5. Be my ally when I need it. If I’m sensorily overloaded, respect that and let me go sit in a quiet corner by myself for a while. If I need to be nonverbal, respect that and let me scribble on my Boogie Board instead of speaking for a while. Advocate for me when I’m not around. Don’t make fun of me behind my back. Allyship is an job, not an identity.
6. Just because someone is autistic doesn’t preclude them from any other thing. You can be autistic AND trans, multiple, gay, disabled…
7. Autism and non-neurotypicality are far broader than the dominant discourse would have you believe. Not all of us flap our hands, but some of us do. Not all of us can tell you what day of the week any calendar date is, but some of us can. Not all of us have trouble maintaining eye contact, but some of us do. Not all of us write the alphabet over and over to fill up blank piece of paper, but some of us do. Some of us have diagnoses and some of us don’t. None of this affects the validity of the lived experience of any neurodiverse person.
8. For the love of glob, autism is not caused by vaccines. Vaccinate your fucking kids. Editor’s note: even if vaccines did cause autism, it shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing!
9. Listen to the voices of neurodiverse people instead of neurotypical people who presume to speak for us. If you’re looking to give your money somewhere, one good place to give it to is the Autistic Self Advocacy Network. Don’t speak over us, and don’t make a pretense of being advocates for us without including us. Don’t give your money to Autism Speaks, and don’t light it up blue.
Originally published by Emily Aviva Kapor at http://plantingrainbows.wordpress.com/2013/04/13/autism-acceptance-month-you-and-me/