Autistic History Month 2013: ACCEPTANCE

04 Nov
November 4, 2013

This piece is in honor of our very first Autistic History Month 2013!

 

Advocacy

I began advocating for disability rights a little over a year ago, and for autism acceptance since my kids were born. I didn’t know I was advocating at the time. I was a Mom doing whatever necessary to make sure her kids got what they needed. I was a Mom being a Mom. I was later informed that I was…

A Mom being a Mom being an Advocate.

So, in all this autism advocating I’ve been doing, I must share that I have never once advocated for autism awareness! *gasp*

(I know, right?!!)

What kind of person am I that I wasn’t advocating for awareness? Well, I’m logical, sensible and

Autistic

When I realized what was going on around me (e.g. my kids and I were Autistic), I jumped immediately into the deep end of the ocean: Acceptance. Why wouldn’t I, right? I had always accepted my kids and myself, so why would a diagnosis change that? The fact is, it didn’t. We were Autistic before we knew we were Autistic and would continue to be so after we learned we were Autistic.

Autism Awarebox checked.

So I was completely confused when I learned that there was this big push to make people aware of autism. I suppose since I was aware, my autistic brain was under the impression everyone else was, too (she tends to think everyone is on her page at all times). My brain aside, I had been hearing about autism awareness for years, well before I had kids. So, if I (a person who does not keep up with current events or even watch the news) knew about these campaigns, couldn’t we comfortably say that we were aware? Instead of pondering the question, I went ahead and used the logical approach:

Skip the awareness and dive head-first into Acceptance! Why, you ask? Because of this:

Awareness – knowing that something exists

Acceptance – the act of accepting something or someone

I feel confident in saying that we are all well aware that autism exists. If you have, however, stumbled upon my blog by accident, check the blogroll to your right. Read through all of them. Once finished, you will most definitely be autism aware. Then you can join me, my family, my Autistic friends and our Allies in

Acceptance.

The Journey

How do you begin the journey to Acceptance? First I ask you to consider your current perceptions of autism. Are they negative? Do you consider autism an illness or a disease?

It’s not.

Do you see Autistic people as victims? Incomplete or broken and in need of ‘fixing’ or, do I dare even whisper… (a cure)?

Because we’re not.

If you do feel this way I ask you to (re)consider who you are receiving this information from. Anyone who speaks of us in this manner is a promoter of the medical model* of disability. It tells you about warning signs, symptoms and red flags. It tells you to be aware, to Beware. And this model is damaging to us because it describes us as damaged.

And we are not.

If you want a different journey, a positive one, I’ll take you – Gladly.  Ours will be about seeing autism as a differing neurology, one that experiences feelings, emotions, human interactions and the environment very differently than the Neurotypical (NT). It will be about seeing an Autistic person as someone who is capable when accommodated, supported and included. It’s the social model* of disability and it recognizes us as valuable human beings.

And we are.

*I talked about the medical and social models of disability here 

How Do You Know?

Who do you listen to? There are so many professionals, experts, organizations, institutions, activists, advocates, etc… out there. How do you choose? Who is right and who is wrong? I cannot tell you how to think or what to do. That’s up to you.  But I can give you some information that might help you make a decision, I know it helped me greatly:

  • If one follows organizations that search for a cure
  • If one raises money to support organizations that search for a cure
  • If one walks, skips, runs and donates time/money to organizations that search for a cure
  • Then one does not accept Autistic people

Elimination of a people because of a disability is not acceptance, it’s Extinction.

  • If one puts us in therapies to eliminate our autistic characteristics/make us ‘pass’ for neurotypical
  • If one makes us hide our Stims (which are so very important and beneficial to our well-being) because they are frowned upon by NTs and considered inappropriate or embarrassing
  • If one forces us to make eye contact because it is more comfortable for everyone else
  • If one re-directs us from, or tries to eliminate our special interests because one feels they are obsessive, pointless wastes of time
  • Then one does not accept Autistic people

Forcing change that does not benefit us, but that is designed to make society more comfortable around us is not acceptance, it’s Reprogramming.

Consider this:

Neither my children, nor I, experience difficulties being Autistic. However, time and again, we encounter people and environments unwilling to support, accommodate or include us, thereby causing great difficulty because

We Are Not Accepted

If you want information about autism (as a ‘disorder’) consult a professional. If you want to learn about an Autistic Life from the experts…

Ask an Autistic

Mission Acceptance

Accepting autism is a concept of entirety. It’s not about picking and choosing. I’ve heard people say they love their child but hate their child’s autism. I hate hearing that, it makes me sad. Autism isn’t something we have. We are Autistic. I would hate to think that my Mom looks at me and thinks:

“God, I would love Renée completely if it weren’t for that darned autism.”

Autism is not separate from me. It is not separate from my children. And it’s not a medical condition that can be cured. Autism is a differing neurology from what is considered ‘typical’ or neurotypical. We are born this way.  It is a part of us like gender and skin color.

So, if you weren’t aware of autism before you got here, between my posts and my blogroll, you are now officially autism aware. YaY!! Have you got it? Good! Now…

A C C E P T   I T !

you know you want to ;)

15 replies
  1. autisticook says:

    “We were Autistic before we knew we were Autistic and would continue to be so after we learned we were Autistic. Autism Aware – box checked.”

    That made me giggle! It’s something I’ve been telling to everyone. My diagnosis doesn’t change me. I’ve always been autistic. They’ve always known an autistic person. So now I am aware and they are aware! And they already accepted me as a person (well, everyone I’ve spoken to so far), so my diagnosis shouldn’t change that acceptance either! It’s that simple.

    Reply
  2. JD says:

    My breakthrough was self-acceptance. I looked in the mirror and said, “Blimey, you’re autistic! Now howzabout I buy you a beer?” I accepted on both counts :D

    Reply
    • srsalas says:

      **Laughing** I love it, JD!! And was it a Guinness?!!

      Reply
    • Arman says:

      Oh, cool! Well, my purpose is just to give a small iinhgst into how life with autism is at our house. You never know how it may give someone else the information they need. I will gladly stop by yours also! I’m on a ’31-day’-blog adventure lol trying to check out everyone else’s blog! It’s so much fun THanks for commenting!

      Reply
  3. JD says:

    I believe you, thousands wouldn’t ;)

    Reply
  4. Steve Borgman says:

    Renee, I appreciate so much your writing. As a therapist working with autistic adults, I get confused. On the one hand, within the autism camp, there are adults who get upset when writers work to celebrate neurodiversity and positive qualities of the autism spectrum. They feel upset that those writers are not acknowledging the reality of the struggles and disabilities (autistics’ words, not mine) they deal with. What would you say to those people, and how should I respond when I get criticism, as a non autistic person, advocating for a strengths based and acceptance based model for talking about autism?

    Reply
    • srsalas says:

      Hi, Steve, always good to hear from you, and thank you for your kind words :)

      So much of our experiences are colored by our environments and the people around us. My first thought would be to question who people receive their support from and are these people/organizations truly supportive of an Autistic life. Medical model and supporters of it consider us broken, damaged individuals in need of fixing/curing. If that is the information a person is receiving, and seems to be their main source of support, then it can only make things more difficult. It’s also a very damaging point-of-view. If we align ourselves with only NTs, and watch how easily they tend to navigate the social world (relationships, employment, parties, school) – and our main goal is to be ‘more like them’ – then our journey will be a difficult one and most likely a failure (mine was). I traveled that road while un-dx’d and it was a stressful, anxiety-inducing, self-esteem diminishing, anger-inciting time. I spent a great deal of my life psychologically berating myself for not being as good as my NT peers. For decades I felt sad, guilty, nervous, worried, scared and angry at everyone and everything around me (I hid it of course because that is not an ‘appropriate’ way to feel). At the time, I didn’t know I was Autistic, so I had no idea why I felt ‘wrong’ in so many ways. Over this last year I have had the good fortune to meet so many Autistics and Allies online – I’ve learned so much from them and felt more supported and understood than at any other time in my life.

      Short version: I highly suggest meeting and talking to other Autistics. Online is really easy and there’s a lot of good people that are happy to take the time to talk with others.

      Hope this helps. Please contact me anytime, I’m always happy to hear from you :)

      Reply
  5. Steve Borgman says:

    Renee, thanks for clarifying these points. I truly appreciate it. Given what you went through, how much “intervention” is harmful (e.g., early childhood intervention). Do you believe that any kinds of social skills should be taught, or is “social skills” in itself assuming that an autistic way of relating is “bad”. I’m trying to better understand your model as a way for doing therapy with both children and adults on the autism spectrum.

    Reply
    • srsalas says:

      Hey Steve. Honestly, it depends on the type. Any ‘intervention’ which I think should be called ‘support’ b/c it’s less scary and more positive sounding should be w/respect to the child. The first question is: Is it beneficial? Meaning will something that supports the child in who he/she is, come of it? If the program does that, and the child is up for it (e.g. if you have to drive a kid kicking/screaming to class, then it’s not the right thing), but if they’re interested/not adverse then try it. However, if it is set up to hide/mask Autistic characteristics (e.g. make the child look more NT) and that’s all that comes of it – then no, personally I wouldn’t be interested. It’s where the idea of Acceptance comes in. I (and my kids) want to be who we are, not who everyone else is more comfortable with. One thing I will say is that some parents tend to load up on the therapies. Kids have to be kids at any age, I’ve seen some that have their kids in therapies 5 days/week and ‘special classes’ on weekends. We also have to consider what message is being sent to our kids when they spend their free time in therapy (while other kids are playing). Do they get the idea that something’s ‘wrong’ with them? That they’re broken? And I’m not knocking therapies, we tried a few here and there, but they never stuck – Bas wasn’t interested and in some cases it was an adamant ‘No!’

      Regarding ‘social skills’ again, it depends on the programs/classes. If it’s a natural setting and is about learning about social interactions and how/why they take place, I get that and that is important information. Not saying it has to be adhered to, but still it’s nice to know why certain exchanges take place. However, if it is set up to ‘program’ kids how to act like or pass for NT (no stimming, forced eye contact, casual touch – handshake, hug, etc…), then I don’t agree with it. For some, the idea of a ‘hello’ hug/handshake is extremely anxiety-inducing, whether it’s social etiquette or not. Also, I’m a firm believer in “Nothing About Us Without Us.” If you can find support programs and social skills classes run by Autistics w/NT assistants — holy cow, let me know about it!! LoL. That would be something.

      The idea behind support (intervention) and social skills can’t be about changing us or making us (appear) more NT. It has to be about: How can I benefit this child in his/her development as an Autistic child? What can I do to support this child in loving who he/she is? And most importantly: How can I help this child learn to navigate the NT world in a way he/she finds comfortable without trying to change who he/she is – not navigate in a way an NT expects, but in a way that the child as an Autistic feels good.

      I hope this helps (if I didn’t answer something, you know you can contact me at any time)
      R :)

      Reply
  6. Steve Borgman says:

    Renee, this is great. I appreciate it. I hope you don’t mind if I continue the discussion here. Can you expand this as to how I can be of service to adults on the spectrum. I like the approach of positive psychology, which assumes the person has strengths and works to help that person grow in those strengths. At the same time, like any person, an adult with autism, just as any other person, has areas to grow in. And counseling would be a way to support them in growing to their own personal goals? And possibly, one of the goals of counseling, would be to help them celebrate who they are? (Maybe helping them discard the notion they may have picked up that they have to be “more NT”?)

    Reply
    • srsalas says:

      More than happy to continue. If you like, why don’t you email me? That would probably be easiest and we can continue the discussion there. You can get me on my ‘Contact’ page here and the email goes directly to me. Once you contact me that way, I’ll answer your questions. They’re excellent questions that require in-depth answers :)

      Reply

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