Autistic Teen Speaks for Herself
Autism Awareness Month tends to bring out a lot of people talking about autism who aren’t autistic—advocacy organizations, parents, celebrities, and, well, bloggers like me. Of course, parents of autistic children do need support and information. Some even discover the signs of an autism spectrum disorder (ASD) in themselves when their children are diagnosed, as happened to recent TS interviewee Dana Howell. And of course, advocacy for autistic people and autism research is in and of itself not a bad thing.
But from these organizations and in the media, we don’t hear so much from people who have autism talking about themselves, about what they really want people to be aware of about autism and about them as individuals, not as stereotypes. But that’s not because they aren’t talking.
They don’t have the big budget to light up buildings with
shameless self-promotion in the guise of autism awareness their message. And the communication and social difficulties of autism can make speaking out about their experiences more difficult than it is for a neurotypical person.
When people on the spectrum do speak out, they often find that the rest of the world doesn’t particularly want to listen, with the exception of feature stories in the media about low-functioning autistic individuals who have overcome the odds, and even these tend to be more about the person from the clear viewpoint of “the rest of us” rather than from that person’s point of view.
Plus, the media focus on low-functioning autism can give the impression that people with high-functioning autism aren’t “really” autistic, and therefore they are using autism as an excuse for being rude or difficult because supposedly they can control it. (See, for example, Landon Bryce’s post at thautcast.com about comedian Denise Hall’s Asperger’s jokes and the lame “I’m sorry you were offended but not for what I did” apology she offered afterward.) This is one of the reasons our society needs to hear more from, and really listen to, people with ASD, to understand the wide range of experiences and behaviors along the spectrum.
Another result of the imbalance of voices speaking about ASD can be more of a focus on autism as something challenging for parents to deal with, or as something foreign and “other,” or even as something inherently wrong and diseased that needs to be eradicated from our future population, something to cure. But many people with autism do not want to be “normal.” They don’t see themselves as aberrant, as someone who needs to be fixed.
As the Australian autistic teen in the video below puts it, “We’re all different. Just like the average person. We’re just a personality trapped in a body.”