Speaking over Autistics
There has been this long-standing belief that Autistic people aren’t capable of speaking for themselves. That we just simply cannot know what we are feeling ourselves.
Unfortunately, this is a problem perpetually enforced in society through its many outlets.
We need to have a serious conversation about the infantilization of Autistic people, a conversation that has been happening for a while. A conversation that is getting harder and harder to ignore, in the time of internet and global access people cannot keep pretending like they simply just did not know.
There is a direct controversy that you probably have heard about lately, that is just a symptom of a wider problem. In addition, the controversy itself involves specifically non-speaking and non-verbal Autistic people, and true to the name of this piece; I will let them communicate their own piece on that.
First of all, there is a massive lack of general access knowledge about Autism as a whole spectrum. When I say this, I am talking about popular media (movies and television) and roles and positions where we can advocate for the community. Right now, everything about Autism is this mystical fairy tale speak. Either it is the looming darkness waiting to snatch kids and turn them into Autistics, or we are whimsical cryptids who spread rainbows and sparkles.
Let’s be clear, I am pretty friggin whimsical, does not mean that is anything besides a harmful caricature of us.
That is the problem isn’t it? Right now, we are not writing, or telling our own stories; and we are not even hired to act in these false retellings. How is that anything besides a caricature of us?
This goes back to the internet and having such a massive access to information directly from the community itself. It is even more insulting to say that you have our best interests in mind, while continuously telling a false or at the very least very narrow narrative of what Autism is. This leads to misinformation and honestly, cruelty from wider society and other people.
As a person in a very public position like celebrities and filmmakers are, they have a responsibility to not share misinformation and fan the flames of hate. Now, it is not just creating this media that fans these flames, that is not what I am saying. It is very much in the response, and ultimately how they set the precedent for interacting with us.
The community has received a massive amount of hate and vile content sent directly to them, because the precedent has already been set; we are incapable of feeling ‘real’ feelings so extreme cruelty is fine.
I am not going to go into detail of everything I saw, but it definitely reminded me just how far we have to go.
In addition, there is a baffling amount of people saying that their first experience and knowledge of Autism has come from the recent controversy, but still tell the Autistic community they are wrong about their own experiences? Literally saying that they would much rather just see Autistic people acting like our caricatures because they are not ‘downers and depressing.’ Sorry I don’t entertain you in my everyday life. I’ll make sure to come out in the jester outfit next time singing merry songs.
It is important for non-Autistic people to catch this stuff too, do not just let things slide when you see them. Do not just let your favs say and do whatever they want because you enjoy their stuff, because I promise you, they would not go this hard for you.
It is shocking how many people are known for how understanding and loving they are, but you find out they have been anti-Autistic for years. Telling Autistic people “they are s*v*ges if they don’t go through ABA therapy.” That is wrong from many different angles, and there is a lot to unpack there beyond Autism hate.
Now, the problem is not just in media obviously. Like I said, it all is a symptom of a wider problem. This just feeds into the general idea that Autistic people don’t have the capacity for individual thought and emotions. I have seen people who genuinely think that we should ‘shut up and be grateful to be talked about.’ I have heard this directly followed with the explanation that ‘we aren’t ACTUALLY upset about this, because we lack the capacity to feel normal emotions.’
I am the most emotional person I have met; call me a mean name and I’ll cry on camera for you. We need to stop this idea that Autistic people cannot communicate their own feelings, that we are incapable of even KNOWING our own feelings. Honestly, most of the Autistic people I have met, including myself, are very in tune with other’s emotions, but just have trouble with the communication.
Truly, I just think we feel empathy different from what is ‘normal.’ However, apparently now it is a developmental deficit because ‘we are less likely to screw someone else over for monetary gain.’
… GOOD!! I would much rather feel that way than a constant me-first mentality.
Getting back to the topic at hand. All of this leads to an infantilization of Autistic people. Most of the knowledge, study, and care is for Autistic children. Adults are either expected to stay conformed to the mindset we had as children, or magically just not have Autism anymore. This has drastically affected access to care for Autistic adults.
(That is not to say the care for children can be described any way besides dismal.)
This leads to the mindset in people that we must be treated like children. That we are not capable of communicating our own feelings without a buffer holding our hands. This is something I have learned early unfortunately. Eventually I developed this bad habit of looking to the person with me whenever a doctor asks me questions, because so often anything I said was not believed without confirmation from a non-Autistic.
If you are not Autistic, then I am sorry, I do not care if your 3rd Cousin is Autistic, you cannot just speak over Autistic people and tell them how they are feeling. This is a serious problem that in 2020 we are still having people tell Autistic people how Autism feels. I am not saying that you cannot share experiences interacting with your family, but it is important to note that you are not the one who personally has Autism.
You are not the victim because you must ‘deal with’ Autistic family. Love them and celebrate them for who they are, because just like anyone else, we thrive in these environments and can be our best selves.
I felt like a lab rat going for care as a child. Constantly I would ask not to have the room filled with medical students writing down notes every time I share intimate details of my own life. I would constantly request not to have them, and next time would be the same. Eventually you are forced to just take it, because any care must be better than nothing right? We are not just something to be studied, we are not anomalies or ‘freaks.’ We are just human beings who happen to have different neurological pathways.
I do not want to keep seeing new caricatures of us, I want to see Autistic people in Autistic roles. Like I said in my Representation in Media piece, if they cannot even bother hiring us or making sets accessible for movies ABOUT US, you really expect them to do it for other roles?? I am not making this as an attack on anyone. I am just frustrated because there is no excuse for things like this anymore, we should be moving forward, and fast. No more gradual change over generations, people are tired and are hurting now.
Anyway, today was a shorter post so I could take a self-care day. So I hope you have a fantastic day, and to all my Autistic readers, please take some time to heal.