I am considered a disease, part of an epidemic that must be eradicated before more people like me are born. What I have cannot kill me; who I am cannot be cured. What I represent to others is often nothing more than a body without a soul, a changeling to be molded into the image of what others expect that I should be. I am autistic, and I do not want to alter this aspect of myself in any way.
I do not mean that autistics are identical to everyone else, or that we never struggle in our daily lives. These two premises are absurd, and I know of no one who believes them. Indeed, it is our difference that is the cause of our problems and of our gifts. Do not think that by gifts I mean high intelligence or the ability to count a box of fallen toothpicks. Most of us have neither. This is not a reason to reject our claim that being autistic is a valuable part of who we are, however, as most non-autistic (also called neurotypical) people cannot do these things either.
I do not mean that we never struggle. We struggle very much, in fact, but it is not due to any inherent weakness, nor to the tragedy of the family said to be “inflicted” with autism, as though the child were a malicious intruder. The tragedy of autism is people assuming that our actions mean one thing when they mean entirely another. The tragedy of autism is being beaten by our peers throughout school and, when reporting it, being told that we the victims brought it upon ourselves by standing out. The tragedy of autism is knowing that organizations regarded as autism charities raise thousands of dollars devoted to developing a prenatal test so that autistics will be selectively aborted. My opinions on abortion have not been constant, but whether I supported it or not, I could not justify such selective abortion as anything but eugenics on the verge of genocide.
Autism is not to be feared, or to be eliminated, but to be understood, accepted, and accommodated. Each day of our lives, we reach out to a world that little acknowledges our need for such understanding. Surely, the socially skilled neurotypicals can do the same and empathize with our perspective on who we are and what we think. Then maybe one day, Congress won’t spend a billion dollars to screen and eliminate us. Perhaps CAN, instead of standing for Cure Autism Now, will stand for Caring And Neurotypical.
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