I’d been on something of a hiatus from online autism advocacy, because I’ve had a real life, and because even my perseverant spirit can occasionally be worn down by circular arguments upon circular arguments upon weird unquestioned prejudices. I do try to understand, however. I do understand that the autism acceptance movement is relatively small, new, and unknown, and that many people are unfamiliar with it. I can deal with that. I do understand that the movement is highly unpopular, going against nearly all mainstream thought on the subject, and that many people disagree with it. I can deal with that.
What has me driven to distraction is the combination of the two, those who know nothing of the movement, and little of autistic adults at all, yet are adamantly convinced that we are wrong, if we even exist. This tempts me to acts of violence. But, rather than screeching in rage and cursing the souls of the ignorant, I will attempt to outline some basic concepts of which I’d challenge my critics to be aware before they begin railing.
- Reasonably intelligent, articulate autistic adults are not the exception to the rule. Assuming that we are is usually a good indicator of lack of experience on the matter, but that doesn’t stop anyone from clinging to the assumption. While I would like to be flattered by the backhanded compliment that I am the most articulate autistic person you’ve ever encountered, I know that all this means is that I am probably one of the few (if not the only) autistic persons above age 13 you have ever met, read, or encountered, because there are some exceptionally brilliantly articulate autistic people in the public sphere.
- Autistic adults are not autistic children. Autistic children grow, develop, mature, learn, and over the course of 18 or so years, become autistic adults. This is a point which would seem to be self-evident, yet many people are under the impression that autistic people are apparently frozen in some early childhood stage, and that the abilities of a young child can be used to accurately predict the abilities of the future adult. They cannot.
- We aren’t against teaching skills. While the autism acceptance movement is far from monolithic, and there is much disagreement within it about what sorts of “interventions” may be beneficial to autistic children, it is safe to say that virtually no one holds philosophic opposition to teaching skills—including but not limited to speaking, reading, writing, math functions, soap making, academic research, self-care, housekeeping, budgeting, ballet dancing, cooking, typing, makeup application, child care, driving, suitcase packing, or list compiling—to children, including autistic ones.
- Mental disorder is a social construct, not an objective scientific reality. That autism spectrum conditions are defined as disorders is no more evidence of an objective reality than that hysteria was once defined as a disorder.
These points are not obscure facts or controversial partisan assertions; they’re basics that people who voice strong opinions on autism-related topics should really know already. Willful ignorance is not a valid point of view.