Before having kids, I remember thinking having a child with autism is essentially a death sentence. I had been told they were incapable of relationships and essentially didn’t know the difference between a chair and their mother. I was scared of increasing rates of autism and fully supported the idea of finding a cure for autism or finding out what was causing autism. Flash forward to 2018 and I’m drying my eyes in a dimly lit psychologist’s office as she tells me my son has been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorder. I went down a rabbit hole of information- some was fear-mongering and some was hopeful. Perhaps the best thing I did was started following Autistic adults on social media and listening to their stories and their perspectives.
If you told me there was a pill to cure autism, I wouldn’t give it to my son. Honest to God. Now if he wanted to take it as an adult, I’d fully support him. Sure, as a parent it would be nice to not have to deal with the meltdowns, the anxiety around the slightest change in plans, the social rejections, or any of the hundreds of accommodations we have to make to our lives. But since when is it ok to change who someone inherently is to make OUR lives easier? My child is hilarious and can crack a better sarcastic joke than most adults. He is creative and thinks outside of the box in ways that astound us as parents. He is highly sensitive and while this can create challenges, it is also a huge gift because he picks up on the energy of a room and can tell when something is off, or emotions have shifted. Autism is part of who he is.
Did you know many autistic adults do not wish to be neurotypical? And if you find yourself questioning that or thinking that can’t be true, you probably need to think about your own biases. Believe it or not, not everyone wants to be non-autistic. Many autistics view non-autistics as strange, boring, or rigid. They don’t have a problem with who they are at all, only the fact that they are not accepted or are constantly being told to conform to the masses.
I once heard an autistic creator once say that the world doesn’t know what it’s like to see autistic people without trauma. Most of their trauma came from well-intentioned parents, educators, or therapists trying to teach them how to be neurotypical. All this did was teach them to suppress their autistic traits and reward them when they did. I refuse to do this to my child and want him to embrace every part of him. It is not his job to conform to what society wants him to be, it is the job of society to understand the many ways people are wired. He is diverse because he is neurodiverse. And diversity is a beautiful thing whether it is religion, gender, race, or neurobiology.
So, someone please tell Autism Speaks that my child isn’t a puzzle that is missing a piece. He isn’t confusing and mysterious as your organization implies. He doesn’t need to be cured of anything and I love him fully the way he is. I support the autistic community in rallying against these harmful organizations and moving towards inclusivity and understanding of autism. Maybe we should spend some of that money you are raising to educate the general public about autism and stop pathologizing anything that doesn’t fit in a neurotypical box.