To parents who have seen their children turn out in an unplanned way—a divergent, deviant path—this may seem an apt metaphor, which is why Autism Speaks uses one like it to solicit donations. It’s almost as if they believe beneath the façade of Autism, they can snatch “their child” from its jaws, or at least recover their dead. To parents, it is impossible for Autism to be a part of us; no, it is a wall, a barrier to their hopes and dreams. This, too, is the language of Autism awareness.
The only way to rid Autism from the Autistic is to kill us—and many have. Autism is who I, and every other Autistic, am. It’s as ridiculous to separate my being Autistic from say having sight. It is an intrinsic part of my being. If I didn’t have Autism, I would be a completely different person. Perhaps I wouldn’t be as interested in chemistry or in music or in linguistics or in botany. Perhaps when I find out that the rate of unemployment for Black people in America is double the rate of whites in America, I wouldn’t get as vehemently angry—determined to tell anyone and everyone in efforts to meet this injustice. Perhaps I would not care when my fellow humans are bleeding because of transmisogyny. Maybe if I wasn’t Autistic, I wouldn’t find it in my nature to be passionate about anything that catches my interest; perhaps I wouldn’t be what the internet condescendingly calls a “Social Justice Warrior.”
But whatever sort of means of “productivity” I have done because of being Autistic or just the environment I grew up in—one that values Social Justice as the most important goal for life—that does not matter, because at the end of this day, at the end of this month, at the end of my life: being Autistic is an intrinsic part of me. We do not deem people with quirks to be inhuman. Personalities and human behaviors have wonderful and rich diversity. Why are we policing being Autistic? If someone cannot draw (as I can’t), we do not call them “low functioning;” we give them a different job. So why when I can’t do certain things, but I can do others, am I insinuated to be less than human? Why do poets like Amy Sequenzia get called “low functioning” when she can’t talk, but her poetry rivals any others. Have you ever heard Ernest Hemingway speak? What I’m arguing here is, in an elementary way, the concept of neurodiversity. It is a topic covered better by more eloquent writers.
Language is important. Autism isn’t some human tsunami bent on the destruction of civilization. There is no “Autistic Agenda”—unless you count existing as an “agenda”—just as much as there isn’t a “Homosexual/Gay Agenda.” Autism is Eric. Autism is me. I am Autism. Autism Speaks, are you listening?
Resources on #BoycottAutismSpeaks: