Like I mentioned in a recent post, April is probably going to expose my Activist Face. Not every post will smack of activism. But I reckon that a greater portion of them will than is typical for me. I think it’s possible that my subconscious is railing against the backdrop of blue heaped upon our fields of vision for a month out of every year, and my instincts tell me to issue a haughty retort.
It makes me shudder, more than a little, when someone makes the remark that autism “stole” their child. They blame vaccines. Or environmental chemicals. Or maybe the age of their partner or themselves when their child was conceived. Or perhaps mom took too many over-the-counter pain relievers during pregnancy. Or maybe it’s a mystery.
But they believe that someone or something took their child away, and with him/her, the accompanying hopes and dreams, and maybe even their future, damning them to a life of therapies, special education, and round-the-clock caregiving, for life.
And they’re looking for someone or something to blame. Pin the tail on the donkey. Solve the puzzle.
And, almost predictably, the puzzle piece became the infamous logo, used by a number of autism-related organizations.
Top secret: most of us, the people on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, despise the puzzle piece.
To me, I’m not missing any pieces. I’m not even a puzzle to be solved. To me, it’s the world that is confusing. They seem to be missing a few pieces. Like the fact that we’re whole, valid, complete human beings, just as we are. That maybe, nature knew what it was doing when it formed us. That maybe, the great mystery is why we’re here. And maybe, how we could improve the world and the quality of life for all of its inhabitants. That perhaps, we “actually belong here, having been put here for a reason. But the world is missing our voices. Or rather, it’s turning a “blind eye” to them. All while droning on about missing pieces.
Life, it seems, is not without a sense of irony.
I was born autistic. It was predetermined somehow, in ways we haven’t yet uncovered. It’s OK with me if that remains a mystery. Some mysteries are beautiful, and meant to remain mysteries in order to be preserved.
Nature, it seems, has a few closely-guarded trade secrets of her own.
If autism is set in motion at or before birth, then we know that it doesn’t come intruding in the night, suddenly grab children in their sleep, and hollow them out, leaving a shell behind.
If a child is found to be autistic, they always were.
Autism is not a boogeyman; it’s a different operating system–at least, the way I see it. It’s not Bigfoot or the Loch Ness Monster. It’s not a tragedy.
The child is still there. They always have been. And they’ve always been autistic. And they’ll always be there.
Autism didn’t “steal” me.
Rather, it made me who and what I am. It preserved everything it means to be human. I feel, I laugh, I cry, I hug, I think, I dream, I have goals, I play, I work, I call certain people on the phone, I email, I text, I engage on social media, I create, I make jokes, I make friends, I hang out with those friends (sometimes), I talk, I read, I write, I have hobbies, I learn, I love art, I cuddle with my cats, I take in the world around me, I live, I breathe, and I someday, I will die.
Practically all of the above is true for the vast majority of those of us on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum.
Do I sound “stolen” to anyone? Do I sound incomplete? Do I sound broken?
Or do I sound human?
Do I not deserve to live among everyone else? Do I deserve a place in this world? Do I deserve to be treated any less? Was I born of a lesser god? Am I a second class citizen? Do I sound like I need treatment, or to be cured? Do I come across as someone whose birth needed to be prevented, someone who never should have happened?
I think not.
But then again, I’m probably biased 😉
Autism isn’t a thief; it’s a different way of being. There are some who disagree with this perspective. Those who do, tend to fall into one of two predicaments: typically, they are either completely ignorant (and may not truly know any actually-autistic people–which is possible even if their own child is autistic; it’s possible to give birth to–and live with–someone without actually getting to know them), or perhaps they’ve been diagnosed as being on the spectrum themselves, and likely at a younger age, but have been indoctrinated into the pathology-based, ginormously-judgmental medical model that insists that we are “afflicted by” autism, and they may be unable to let go and embrace a new paradigm.
I think nothing less of the people in either of those situations above. They’re entitled to their own opinion, based on their own experiences.
But that doesn’t necessarily make them correct. It might be correct for them, and for them, that’s what counts.
But after interacting intensely and often with a reasonable sample size (1700+ people), I can comfortably say that that viewpoint is far less common. It’s certainly not universal.
Autism couldn’t have stolen me. Because, like everyone else on the Asperger’s/autism spectrum, I’m right here.
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(Image Credit: Alla Tsyplakova)