I am a proud Autistic person. If an Autism ‘cure’ became available I would not take it. I would not even consider taking it. My Autism is part of what makes me ‘me’. In some situations I find myself doing that old social chameleon thing – more out of habit than intent – but mostly I’m Autie through and through. I certainly don’t see myself as inferior to neurotypical folks. I do not apologise for my Aspieness and I recognise the very large amount of positives – and some negatives – that Autism gives me.
Sadly, a lot of the word does not share my view. They seem to see Autism as an aberration or something which is only an issue, a problem and a deficit, They hold the view that being non-Autistic is better than being Autistic, and unfortunately, a lot of them have no shame in sharing those views with people like me.
Here is an example of one such instance:
I had a book launch for my ‘Wonderful World of Work: A Workbook for Asperteens’ earlier this year. It was at the National LIbrary of Australia. It was one of the coolest things I’ve done in my life. I was very happy. I gave a presentation prior to signing books and a lot of it was about working with the strengths of Autistic young people, focussing on what they can achieve and helping them achieve it. In true Jeanette style it was very affirming and self-advocate-y. After my presentation we went to the foyer of the library and I signed books. A friend of a friend came up with her worky workbook, ready for my authorial ‘John Hancock’. As I gave it back to her she said ‘you know, you don’t have to tell people you’ve got Autism’. I responded with ‘what?’ She went on: ‘You know, you could pass as ‘normal’ – as if this were the pinnacle of human existence. I explained to her that I did not wish to be seen as normal – whatever it may mean – and that I like myself just the way I am – as Autistic as God made me. My first act on returning home was to unfriend the woman on Facebook.
Sadly, this woman is not alone. A lot of people tell us that ‘you don’t look Autistic’ or ‘You’re just like everyone else’. I want a world in which people understand how dismissive and offensive this kind of thing is. I sort of view Autism as a culture, with its own ‘language’ and set of commonalities. Could you imagine if someone went up to Barack Obama and told him ‘you know, you could pass as Caucasian if you wanted to?’ There would – rightly – be an outcry. It will be nice when our Autistic identity is recognised and people who tell us how ‘normal’ we are as if it were a compliment will be roundly criticised and censured.
Me at book launch – May 2014