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Welcome to a blog written by an autistic adult woman in her late 30's using words and images to advocate acceptance as well as awareness of those with life-limiting sensory processing disorder and resulting social and behavioral challenges.Thank you for visiting.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Please, STOP saying autism is only a way of thinking differently


Too many places I visit online are bringing up a troublesome sentiment: That having autism is only a way of thinking differently. 
I notice that a majority of those expressing the sentiment are fully independent people with Asperger's Syndrome, now grouped under "autism spectrum disorder" in the DSM 5. 
I don't like it when Autism Speaks claims to speak for me, and I don't appreciate some in the Neurodiversity movement doing so, either.
If you experience very mild communication and sensory issues, that's great, but do remember that that is your experience, not the entire experience of those with autism.
I would hate to see supportive services lost due to a public awareness campaign that says having ASD isn't a disability.
Having ASD alone didn't get me services. Generalized anxiety disorder (GAD), obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) and premenstrual dysphoria (PMDD) did. I had to describe how the general public, as well as myself, aren't safe unless I have supportive services, including psychiatric treatment and medication, and safe people who can accompany me out in the public.

It is not a shame to acknowledge I have a disability. It is liberating. It is an honest assessment. It is not all there is to me but is a large part of my life. Fortunately, there is support, but how can I have support if I don't acknowledge that I have a disability in the first place? How can I expect help with sensory overload and transportation if I refuse to admit I have painfully sharp hearing and cannot drive due to the distraction of other drivers?
About 1 percent of the world population has autism spectrum disorder. (CDC, 2014http://www.autism-society.org/what-is/facts-and-statistics/
A different way of seeing the world? Yes. Solely? I wish you could see me run from a store when a kid throws a tantrum, even though I'm wearing earmuffs. I wish you could feel my body shudder when I am startled, sometimes triggering a self-harming meltdown.
If you don't need supports, fine, that's a blessing for you. You are one part of the spectrum but do not need to speak for the whole by saying across the board that it is only a way of thinking differently.
Not everyone who thinks differently has autism. I'm sure those who are not autistic who are creative thinkers wouldn't want to be linked to having autism if they didn't have it. It wouldn't be a part of who they were.
Using that logic, every painter, musician, scientist and employee of Silicon Valley would be autistic, and that simply isn't realistic.

Those who lessen the humanity of the disabled are the ones who give the "d" word a bad rap. Instead of being angry with them and seeking to move away from the disability "label", maybe we should try to be patient and show them that those with disabilities can and do lead "meaningful" lives, which should never be defined solely on whether or not one financially contributes to society.

 Here is a Telegraph article about an autistic gardener who doesn't view his autism as a "condition", but has meltdowns and motor problems: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/men/thinking-man/11752863/Autism-isnt-a-condition-its-just-a-different-way-of-seeing-the-world.html

 Does he not understand his autism in full or is he in self-denial?

Calling out a stereotype: autistic people do feel empathy. My brain values voice over body language. If someone is sad but doesn't say anything, then I won't pick up on their sadness. I often wake people up in minor frustration as my brain prioritizes voice over eye contact. 

 I hope this message resonates with those who are tired of being marginalized yet again by a growing majority.