Sunday, 3 March 2013

Autistic people are...

Last week's Autistic People Should flashblogging had a fantastic result - Google has agreed to step in and remove the hate speech from the autocomplete suggestions that pop up when you type "autistic people should" or "autistic people are" into their search box.

But that's no reason to stop now.  Today is part two: Autistic People Are...

Tall daisy

Autistic people are people:  We are not a philosophical concept to be talked about in the abstract.  We are not soulless, mindless husks who cannot speak for themselves (even if we don't all do it with spoken words).  We are not your learning experience, put here for you to learn about respect and difference.  We are not "self narrating zoo exhibits", to use Jim Sinclair's beautiful turn of phrase.

We are people.

Autistic people are all different: There is no archetypal autistic person who can be held up as the template for all of us.  Autism affects all genders, ages, ethnicities, spiritual paths, social standings, economic levels, geographic areas and subcultures.  "You don't look autistic" is a meaningless phrase, because autism can look like anything.

Autistic people are autistic: Autism isn't an aftermarket add-on that can be taken away without changing who the person is.  There is no different, 'real' us hidden underneath our autism - our autistic selves are our real selves.

Autistic people are experts on what it's like to be autistic: Am I an expert on parenting autistic kids? Hell no, and I don't claim to be.  Am I a neurologist?  Psychologist?  Teacher?  No, no, and Dear Gods No.

But I have 30+ years experience at living in an autistic body.  I know more about the actual lived experience of being autistic than any non-autistic person can, regardless of how much they've studied.  By comparision, an Indigenous person would understand living and being an Indigenous person in a way a white anthropologist just wouldn't and couldn't.  Autism's the same.  There is a place for neurotypical experts - just like there's a place for white anthropologists - but that place isn't presuming to speak for the people they study.

That's our job, as the actual people in question.

And through initiatives like the flash blogging over the last two weeks, we are.