Thursday, 31 March 2011

Mature Autism – What I Want for World Autism Awareness Day « Springingtiger's Blog

Mature Autism – What I Want for World Autism Awareness Day

I think the thing I want most for World Autism Awareness Day is understanding. Autism is not a disease neither is it – as a rule – life threatening. I don’t want to pretend that everything will be perfect, but neither should any one assume that autism will ruin their or their child’s life. Autism is a diagnosis not a sentence.

I want the world to better understand what Autism is. I want people to understand that Autism is not a psychological illness. Some people with autism may be below average intelligence, but many will be above, some will be very much above. That a person has difficulties learning does not necessarily indicate a lack of intelligence, but might equally indicate problems with processing information. Communication problems tend to be a part of autism and what is perceived as an inability to learn may be predicated upon a preference for an alternative communication or learning method. I had thought of making this piece a list of resources, but others will do that; instead I want to speak from my heart, because we too have feelings, however much difficulty we have in expressing and understanding them.

You cannot generalise from one person with autism to all, we are all different. It is essential that you throw out stereotypes and expectations, although if you are a parent please keep your expectations high, we may yet surprise you! Treat each of us as an individual and find what works for each of us, often what has worked for one will work for another so share your experiences. Share your experiences and also share ours, listen to us, if you can learn to communicate with us there is much we can all learn.

I think – like you – we want to be valued and appreciated for who we are, not condemned for not being who you might have wanted us to be. For some of us, when you talk about finding a cure for autism, when you seek out a preventable cause, it does feel as if you are saying we should not exist. I understand that every parent loves their child by definition, but when you look for a cure it really can feel as if you feel there is something wrong with who we are. Personally I would prefer that you focus your efforts on making society accommodate us, make what adaptations you need to have us participate fully. Yes, I want everyone to understand everything about autism, but I do not want to feel threatened by your quest for understanding, I’d like to feel you are working for us not to end us.

Most of all this Autism Awareness Day I want people to understand that people with Autism Spectrum “disorders” – I hate that word! – are human. Our normality may be different, but we are as human as you. Just as your blue eyes don’t make you inferior to your brown-eyed neighbour, so our autism makes us no less human than you. I want people to be aware of autism – even of its negatives like some co-morbid conditions, – in a positive way. The world does not end with autism, but a different way of being in the world begins. I have a dream of a world which values each of us regardless of who we are and enables us to fully participate. I dream of a world where difference is not a sigma but merely difference, and where we can accept and enjoy that difference having learned to accommodate it. Most of all I dream of a world where we can all be happy because we all want each other to be happy ,and are prepared to put in the effort and the resources that requires, and here I am not only speaking for people with autism but for all people. Awareness starts by asking the question, “Who is my neighbour?” and caring enough to listen to the answer.