Dear Mass Media.
Please, I implore you, stop seeking out only the autism peak bodies like Autism Speaks, Autism Awareness Australia, The National Autistic Society, Aspect, Amaze to make comment on stories to connected with autism.
In the latest chapter of these situations we see an autism peak body making justificatory and excusatory statements on their public Facebook page, and I imagine their twitter account also, for the chaining of a 16-year-old autistic person to a bed in the back room of a house.
Where media is your seeking comment from autistic voices, self advocacy groups like Autistic Self Advocacy Network?
Please, I implore you to stop.
A frustrated Autistic Adult.
Well it’s not a real letter, well not yet, perhaps it will become such, but it does, I think, make a relevant point. This evening as I browsed my social media feeds, I discovered a story out of Sydney Australia of an Autistic boy chained to his bed in a back room of his house. You can read the coverage of the story here. This story is bad enough in its own right, however, it gets worse. Autism Awareness Australia, have made a post on their Facebook page, supporting not the autistic but the parents. See screenshot below:
So as this young man is transported off to hospital, the best our self-proclaimed autism awareness peak voice can do is to talk about the frustrations the mother must have felt. Really! I mean Really! What the actual hell!
They need to decide if this statement is true. Or they only wish to represent and support parents and caregivers.
I have had experiences with this organisation in the past, unfortunately. They do not like to be asked tough questions. They routinely block from commenting on their social media channels autistic voices who are critical or questioning of their actions or comments.
As you may imagine I am very frustrated and angry. Stories continue to emerge of autistics being subjected to abusive practices and still our mainstream media channels resort to only listening to non-autistic voices.
This is not okay. It never has been okay and it is not now okay.
Autistic voices are not hard to find, there is no reason for them not to be listened to and heard. Many autistic voices have multiple public channels through websites, Facebook, twitter and G+ for starters. They are not hard to find.
I’m fed up, not only do these non-autistic voices fail to speak up for autistics and their rights, they actively spread the falsity of the horrible life autism is, they actively resist the inclusion of autistic voices on their boards and staff.
Perhaps the biggest insult of all in this whole thing is the assumption, that autistics can not speak for themselves. The assumption that we are unable to have a voice in our own affairs is the height of insult and offence.
I am autistic. I can and do speak for myself. Please stop trying to speak for me.
I can almost hear the retort ringing in my head – “oh but you’re so high functioning, and you are verbal and intelligent” blah blah blah.
Yes. Blah. Blah. Bloody Blah.
Just because I am verbal and some autistics are not makes not a bit of difference. One does not need to use their mouth parts to express their view, opinion, voice, self-advocacy etc.
Just because I can’t speak does not mean I have nothing to say
I’m not sure of the source of this quote, I have seen it placed in many places in the disability rights movement. The reason is that it’s just so darn true and pertinent.
Autistic does not equal silent. Autistic does not equal mute. Autistic does not equal incapable of self-determination. Autistic does not equal open to be abused.
There is no excuse for abuse, child abuse, or any abuse. It is not okay regardless of who that abuse is perpetrated on. If the young man in question in this article had been a person with Cerebral Palsy for example would there be a supportive statement made for this parent. I sincerely hope not.
Just because it’s autism, does not mean the rules do not apply. Just because it’s autism does not mean that the person is open to mistreatment. Just because it’s autism does not mean that human rights do not apply.
It’s time to stop speaking for us when we can speak for ourselves. It’s time to stop speaking over us when we try to speak for ourselves. It’s time to stop disregarding our voice because it is different. It is time to stop silencing our voice when what we say is uncomfortable.
Time in fact to stop being in opposition with us and to be instead in partnership with us. To stand alongside us. To defer to us.
Our voice is to be heard and listened to, it is as important, and often more so, as the voices of the so-called peak bodies.
I call on those bodies to speak with us not against us. To amplify our voices instead of drowning them out.
The autism and the autistic communities can do better than we are doing. We can do this together. It won’t be easy but it can be done. Together we do better.
As The Bible says:
A house divided against itself will fall