Previously in my posts I have written about the issue of the multiple communities around Âûtism and Âûtistic people. I don’t resile from the reality of these different communities but, I would contend that these communities need to be much more united than they are in fact are.
Today I saw another situation on social media where the divide was yet again present. Where a perhaps misguided but likely good intentioned campaign came into the spotlight. This particular campaign was named #silentselfie and the idea was to raise awareness for Autistic children by having people take a selfie of themselves with their hands over their mouth. Apparently this was meant to portray support for those that don’t speak with their mouthparts.
This campaign was misguided because it is a fact that speaking with mouthparts is not the only way of communicating. It may be the most common and it may be in some respects the most convenient. But it is not the only and necessarily always the best.
The people who were responsible for this campaign attracted the ire of some Autistic people, who suggested that the campaign was unhelpful and in fact hurtful to them. These autistic voices were met with justifications and denials that their point was valid. As often happens in the world of social media, escalation was swift. Within a few hours the campaign was dropped and there was much comment on the organisers page. The most unfortunate part of this was when autistic voices commented they were more often than not quickly deleted and banned from further comments.
I was one of those voices unable to comment. I thought my comment was fair, and, it was in reference to the fact that it didn’t seem right that people were being silenced. As I couldn’t comment I watched the comments evolved with some distress. My distress was seeing my fellow autistics silenced, accused of being less than capable of understanding and other delightful things. Clearly the passion was high. But the most important thing that is an issue in my view is the absolute divisiveness I saw.
Personally I think the campaign was quite silly, I could not see what it would do to actually help anyone. A key point made by autistics was that we don’t want awareness we want acceptance. A key point by the families and carers of autistics was that awareness was needed and that this was a positive way of doing it.
I could go further into this and analyse the to and fro but I don’t see any value in that and I do think it would in fact only further entrench division.
I will not shirk the responsibility to speak for Âûtistics. It is an important advocacy thing to do. I will not shirk away from that in any way, and in saying that I was devastated again to see my fellow autistics silenced by some that are raising the future autistic adults in our society.
We gather around Âûtism. Âûtistic people, families of Âûtistic people. Friends of Âûtistic people. Yes we gather around this thing called autism. We gather around it to see the best lives possible for Âûtistic people. We gather around calling a halt on the cure culture that does not help Autistic people. We gather around to stop the abuse of Âûtistic people through biomedical and therapeutical actions which are dangerous and harmful. We gather around to speak out for a positive narrative in the media and from the peak autism bodies and dispense with the negative narrative. We gather around to lobby our governments for services and support for Âûtistic people, their carers, their families, their children. We gather around this thing called Âûtism.
The operative word here is we. We, yes we, must move forward together. Autistics. Allistics. Neurodivergent and Neurotypicals. Together We can achieve much. That old saying is a truism:
United we stand divided we fall.
It really is easy to find things we disagree about. It really is easy for us to find the fault in each others arguments. It really is. But what is the benefit. I think, no I know, we all need to do a better job of listening to each other. I as an Autistic need to do a better job of listening to my Allistic family members, friends, colleagues etc. And at the same time they need to do a better job of listening to me too. It cuts both ways. It really does.
I am convinced that overall the absolute majority of parents out there want the very best for their autistic kids. I am equally convinced that the same is true for the autistic people that try to talk to them. But, we seem to each have our own set of earplugs in. We seem to effectively preach to our own choir, but not so good at singing to the choir next door.
It’s time to retune our voices to be heard by each other. Let’s link ourselves together because in doing this we can achieve amazing things, stupendous things. I offer my allistic allies and friends my arm to link with, I thank those that have already taken it and I ask those that haven’t will you take it?