Note: This post is part of this initiative: http://autismpositivity.wordpress.com/category/autism-positivity-2014/ Read more beautiful posts at this link.
I have several friends, family members and people in my community who are Autistic. They are a diverse group of people with different needs, beliefs and temperaments...but the one aspect I often find my Autistic friend's have in common are their healing personalities. The lie that Autistics are non empathetic or non communicative is exposed when I am around each of them. They are the people who children and animals flock to, whether they want them to or not due to sensory issues. My Autistic friends are often the people whom the outcasts of society, the abused and the down trodden go to for a listening ear, for compassion and because these people groups feel the Autistics are safe. Generally we are. It is very rare for an Autistic to not be safe, innocent and pure of heart. In the news we hear the horror stories but most often, there are other factors at work that should be exposed. The very stats speak for themselves; the number of Autistic people that commit crimes in the overall population of Autistics verses the number of Nuerotypical people that commit crimes in their overall population makes the issue stunningly clear. Autism does not create violence. Like in any population group, there will be issues but in general, the Aspies I know are trustworthy, kind and considerate.
I am an Autistic and I am 30. I have three children and am married to an NT. We have a happy life. Contrary to popular Autism propaganda we have had a happy 12 year marriage and while having children was hard for me at first, I now love being a mom. While it is true that I can not face meal time every day without my husband or support system nor drive in the city due to executive functioning / Dyspraxia issues, I also KNOW I give back to the world with my unique set of gifts. Without a doubt Autistics need more support because the current culture is not set up for us. Instead of people fighting Autism we need them to fight ignorance and stigma.
There are many parents and practitioners who claim they are reversing autism in children. They are not "reversing" the way the brain is wired...what is actually happening from the perspectives of Autistics is that they are helping deal with sensory onslaught or other symptoms of Autism that interfere with social interactions and minimizing them. For example, many Autistics have a leaky gut so going off of gluten really helps them think clearer to deal with sensory onslaught of the loud culture we live in, but our actual brain wiring is still unique and different. Cognitive therapy also helps re wire some anxiety that we experience due to being "differently wired" and can aid us in being thought of as more "normal" but we are still Autistic. Just with less "symptoms." Technically these claims of reversals are actually just improving assimilation, which is fine in some cases but it needs to be addressed as it is; an ethical question that needs serious consideration. Many Autistic adults who can speak for themselves will tell you this. My son does not seem very Autistic on the outset, because we have worked with him since age 3 on eye contact and anxiety so he is less bullied, but he still works from a different mind theory than an NT.
My children and I are on the Autism Spectrum. I do not view us as diseased or needing to be "cured." Nor do I like being targeted for drugs from birth. Professionals need to hear the voices of ACTUAL Autistics. While we do have some harder things to deal with in life due to the additional issues that can come with Autism like Dyspraxia, Anxiety, Sensory Overload, Executive Functioning issues, ADD, Dyslexia or being non verbal, each case is different. To balance that out there are many beautiful attributes to Autism. Cognitive therapy goes far to help with aspects like anxiety. (I do NOT recommend ABA. See THIS link.)
Autistics are beautiful contributing members of society when given the chance to use our gifts in our own ways. For instance eye contact? It's NOT about us not socially connecting...It’s about this: http://musingsofanaspie.com/2014/03/28/unpacking-asperger-autistic-gaze/ In the Autistic community there are beautiful voices of the non verbals who have plenty to say: http://nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.ca/ How about we combat stigma instead of combating Autistics and re frame our ableist mentalities on what it means to be “normal”?
Some of the "normal" adults I know are unhappy, unaware, restless, discontent and still searching for their meaning. Even if they are in fields they love or graduated top in their class. I have different goals for my children. I want them to grow up self aware. We teach them about handling emotions, differing faiths, cognitive therapy, yoga and meditation for self healing, boundaries in relationships...and to live in the NOW. I tell them that they already are WHO they are in this moment. They do not have to wait to be a "grown up" to experience life. They do not have to answer the stupid question,"What do you want to BE when you grow up?" I tell them to BE NOW. When they are hopefully old and grey, I KNOW they won't look back and say, "Boy am I ever glad I took the job in that firm." or "Those years of expense in school were worth every penny and the lack of time I had with the people that mattered." Instead I want them to say, "Life is tough and beautiful. From the time I was young I learned this but I also learned that I mattered. To stay connected and compassionate, from childhood I learned to engage in the outdoors, with the few people who mattered, and with myself. I lived well despite what work I did or did not do. The wisdom I gained was not just for knowledge's sake and I learned to be comfortable with myself no matter where I was. I lived in the NOW with meaning. I embraced who I was and became what I am." There are beautiful and messed up people in “normal” wiring AND Autistic wiring. We have our struggles and while Autistics DO need understanding and more acceptance, we don’t need ignorance hurting us too. I celebrate my children’s differences. I celebrate my brain. It may be different but it is worthy. It may be hard at times but the hard moments have taught me compassion. Many Autistics are so empathetic they shut down because they can't handle the onslaught. They just need to be allowed to stim and be different with some aids in overcoming the other hardships that may come along with their unique wiring. Autistics do need guidance when it comes to relational boundaries, sensory onslaught and some forms of communication, but once guided with the appropriate information (generally found from other Autistics or GOOD cognitive therapists) they make the world a better place. Most Autistics are the healers and the advocates, the pure of heart who simply need to find their own way of making the world a better place while being true to themselves. Because of the way we have to fit into the world, Autistics have amazing RESILIENCE . Once they find this balance of living in the paradox, they hugely participate in the world we all help create.
*To see more thoughts on Autism/ Aspieness click on the Autism/Asperger's label below...there are posts on Creating Autistic Safe Havens, Aspie motherhood, Feeling Younger While Getting Older, The Consequences of Growing an Aspie up to reality, Gender Bias in Psychology, Famous People speculated to Have Autism, Hurtful Misconceptions about Vaccinations, What Autism Means to Me, Guest Post from Samantha Croft on Aspie Communication, Disclosing Autism, Autism Positivity/ Autistic Healers Flashblog, Sensory Autism experiences at the Zoo, Autism DOES NOT cause Violence, Dealing with and Understanding Meltdowns
**To all those who feel different, lonely or misplaced...we got this, we are beautiful, we are going to be alright...keep the fight and live TODAY: