Scrolling through my Facebook feed today I came across a very insightful statement. It so clarified the issue of respect that it is almost startling. It places it fairly and squarely exactly in its correct context.

This really is an absolutely stunning statement. I thank my Facebook friend Amy for sharing it. The comment from the page do-as-your’re-told is a case in point also.

I recall the many versions of this so-called respect I was called to as I grew from a young boy to become a man. Things like If you want to be treated like an adult act like one – code for how dare you disagree with me and go against my will. Or perhaps my Mother’s most favourite – “Because I’m the Mum that’s why” – This one always angered me, it always made absolute no sense to me in any logical sense. It is akin to “because I said so”, but it is so ridiculous that it begs to be challenged, every time. And challenge it I did, and be subjected to a respect as authority model I was. Every single time.

respect-952439_1280I recall this being used so many times when daring to call in to question a justification for a command or directive from my mother. It was used in situations where all that was wanted was that I simply obey without question. For example when wanting to go out to an event and being told no. I would request a reason and no reason other than the “Because I am the mum that’s why” would be given. I would seek a real reason and was told to show respect for my elders. But here’s the thing, I am unable to this day to see how what I was requesting was in any way disrespectful.

At times I would request that I would like to be also treated with respect and these situations were greeted with a response along the lines of “respect has to be earned.” What kind of utter rubbish is that anyway. Surely all people are entitled to respect and dignity regardless of age, race, gender, ability, socio-economic status. Surely this is the case.

due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others.
“young people’s lack of respect for their parents”
 Source: Google
Due regard for the feelings, wishes, or rights of others. This does not mean an ascribing of authority. This does not mean that by ascribing respect one lowers oneself to lower status than the one being given respect. No it is in essence an acknowledgement of the humanity of the other.
And I am sure is what autistic advocacy is all about at its central core. Respect. Acceptance as fully human. It is not, as they say, rocket science. It is this very thing that is so potently embedded in the statement ‘Different Not Less’. It is so embedded in the meaning of the tagline of the group ASAN ‘Nothing About Us Without Us.’
Everyday I see fellow autistic advocates being silenced, disregarded and bullied, often by so-called autism moms who declare themselves authorities on the issue at hand. Generally what is occurring in these situations is that the autistic is calling for equal respect for their voice, or opinion on an issue as others are afforded. Unfortunately it seems that advocates such as these are often interpreted as demanding some level of authority. This is simply not true. autistic advocates seek acceptance, true acceptance. That means respect as human persons. That means not being discounted because your are:
  • Too high functioning
  • Too verbal
  • Not at the severe end of the spectrum
  • apparently intellectually inferior
  • not my child
  • don’t know my son/daughter

Along with many other sidelining statements that are used to dismiss and to disrespect for no other reason, at the core, than daring to assert the status of humanity to oneself.

I am convinced that much of the reason for this situation is the continued negative narrative that has been pervasive in relation to autism from Kanner’s refrigerator mothers, to Rimland’s search for a dietary cause and solution, to Lovaas depiction of us as non-persons and his creation of dog training methods to change us to indistinguishable from our peers, to Wakefield’s fraudulent and falsified research, to the phenomenon that is Autism Speaks, to the Anti-Vax movement, to the likes of pseudo science wacko’s like David Avocado Wolffe, to the horrific declarations and treatments by those like Kerri Rivera, Autism One, Genesis II Church, Jeff Bradstreet with their Chelation, MMS, GcMaf, hyperbaric Oxygen Chambers and whatever else they dream up with their next thought bubble.

creative-commons-785336_1280All of this is predicated on an assumption that Autism is not different but less. This lessness is then compounded upon with characterisation of disorder, disease, vacant, locked away, and unable to communicate. Compounded again with building of mass hysteria of epidemic and catastrophe.

In the end when so much about the idea of respect is misconstrued as a sense of authority it is no wonder that autistics have to fight so hard and constantly for respect. To be treated as human. To be treated as equal.

Yes we are equal. We are Different Not Less. Please, accept as us that, accept our equality, our difference, our humanity.