Lately, I've been reading a bunch of articles in my free time about something that I've always been interested in: autism. In doing so, I have come across a community of autistic people on Twitter and Tumblr.
It started with a video that came across my recommended YouTube videos. It was by an autistic person named Amythest Schaber. I can't remember which video I watched first, but their videos are about different aspects of autism, such as stimming and executive functioning. (Amythest is also intersex and prefers the singular they pronoun when referring to them.)
I found these videos fascinating. So I wanted to learn more. I decided to follow her on my personal YouTube and Twitter accounts. Through her Twitter feed, I saw her retweet other autistic bloggers recounting their experiences with the world. It was through this network that I learned about Autism Speaks.
Now, I had heard about Autism Speaks before I started reading these blog posts, but only on a surface level. Several of these bloggers have posted explanations about what Autism Speaks really does. Here is a masterpost by The Caffeinated Autistic with all of the links. I would recommend reading through the post, but a quick summary for those short on time and/or Internet speed: autistic kids are "broken," they need treatment for their disease in the form of intense behavioral therapy, and they need a cure before this gets any more out of hand.
Let's just say I disagree. Autism is a developmental disability that affects everyone differently. I view autism as a variation of the brain that should be supported, not changed. Basically, I view this from a neurodiversity perspective. To me, it seems to be the opposite of Autism Speaks, who doesn't even have a single autistic person making decisions for the organization.
How am I supposed to support this? Wearing blue for autism awareness isn't an option for me. There has got to be something else.
I found a different color: red. It's meant to represent autism acceptance, not just awareness. Personally, I think we (as a society, in general) are aware of what autism is. While it's a great start, I think it's time to move on and start on autism acceptance. Accepting autistic people as an integral part of society. Accepting them as a person like anyone else. Accepting them for who they are; nothing more, nothing less.
So why the blog post? Because I feel more people need to know that accepting is something we should all try to do. It takes baby steps, such as educating yourself on ableism and the experiences of disabled people. I wouldn't do this just for autistic people, either. I would do the same for any disability. I want to be the best educator I can possibly be, but I also want to be the best advocate and ally I could possibly be. I know I'm gonna screw up (I probably already have in this post), and I will learn about more ways I have been ableist. But I'm working on it. One baby step at a time.
At this point, I want to let autistic people tell their stories. Here are a few autistic bloggers and tweeters to get you started. Let me know if I missed someone, because I think I have missed a few people.
Amythest Schaber (@lemniscamythest): neurowonderful.tumblr.com
Cynthia Kim (@aspiemusings): musingsofanaspie.com
Lydia X.Z. Brown (@autistichoya): autistichoya.com
Coffee Spoonie (@coffeespoonie)
Dominick Evans (@dominickevans): dominickevans.com
Annie Segarra (@annieelainey): youtube.com/theannieelainey
Amy Sequenzia (@AmySequenzia): nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com
Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (@autselfadvocacy): autisticadvocacy.org
Autism Women's Network (@autism_women): autismwomensnetwork.org
I understand that the idea of neurodiversity is very controversial. I am okay with disagreeing with people. If I am misunderstanding something on either side, I am open to a diplomatic conversation. This will help me understand other points of view and see where I might be in the wrong.