There was another article in Spectrum Magazine recently that was critical of neurodiversity, as well as its advocates. As a full disclosure, I haven’t read it, but I’ve gathered the gist of it from the tweets I’ve seen over the past few days. So now I want to talk for a minute about the campaign against neurodiversity.
It occurs to me that the “War on Autism” (a term I used at least a year before this article was published) is no longer about the attitudes of ND activists, any more than it’s about the crab bucket mentality of anti-NDs. It’s gotten to the point now where anti-NDs not only troll and harass pro-NDs, drawing energy from their hatred of everything they don’t identify with; they tone-police NDs as well, to the tune of “how DARE you speak that way to parents who just want the best for their severely autistic kids!!!”
Um, guys… I had parents who thought they had my best interests at heart, too, when they complied with the school’s demand to throw me under an EEG when I was 11. It was just one more depressing episode in a kittenhood of hell and high water. Was it what I wanted? Uuuuuuggggghhhhh, for God’s sakes, NO. Was it what they wanted? Not sure about that either, but it’s what ended up happening because at my age I lacked the legal authority to decide these things for myself. (Portent of “To Siri With Love”, anyone?)
But was it what was best for me? In the long run, no. It was a waste of time, from the preparation to the actual test, and it made me feel like more of a useless burden than I already did.
This all comes back to the paradigm of Individual Preference.
A lot of allistics are always “buhhh you’re people with autism.” Most of us prefer “autistic person”, and the poll results are taking up so much cyberspace that there’s no more room for debate. A lot of us don’t want to be cured. And yet, some of us do.
(Now I won’t go into the ramifications of an actual medical cure being found, except to say that such a cure should also be left to individual preference — it should NOT be forced on anyone who doesn’t want it.)
For years we’ve tried to help other autists understand that they aren’t diseased or broken or disordered. Some of them, for whatever reason, can’t accept that. Anti-NDs have seized on their feelings to demonize pro-NDs, to make pro-NDs feel rotten to the core for imposing their views. But… now who’s doing the imposing?
What the bucket crabs fail to understand is, neurodiversity is not about dismissing the voices of high-support autistic people and their families. It’s about empowering all autistic people to contribute something to the world when their support needs are recognized and met.
I want to take this moment to enlighten distressed autists that they are free to make their own choices. They may not believe it because of ABA, or some other factor that shaped their minds to believe they were incapable of independent thought. But they can decide what they need. And this is the essence of “self-advocacy.” The term, indeed, is self-explanatory; each of us advocating for ourselves, our individual needs and desires (though preferably not our needs and desires for another person who doesn’t share them).
Like being ND? Wouldn’t give it up for anything? Want to try being NT? See if you like it any better? You do you.
I wonder what the autistic/autism communities would be like if we all respected each other’s preference and left each other in peace, and I am saddened to realize that since it’s not human nature to leave each other in peace, we’re trapped in an endless, vicious exchange of fire. But remember this: Autistic people have been attacked and bullied for everything from their stims to their passions to their self-presentation for as long as the condition has been recognized. We’re all tired of the dodecahedron of badgering that has only intensified of late.
All we can do is self-advocate, let the rest of creation know what our own individual needs, desires, and preferences are, and hope to whatever powers we believe in that someone cares enough to listen to them.