This is my very first Autistic Speaking Day! And true to form, I'm writing this in the evening, the day of (it's all about that time agnosia). I have no idea if it will be able to be included, but I'll try anyway.) ;)
Several months ago, a non-Autistic mom of Autistic kids (whom I deeply admire) expressed that in some ways, she felt "stuck in the muck" between autism "warrior" curebie moms and Autistic adult advocates...not really belonging in either place. I didn't speak up at the time, but even though I have known for over a year that I myself am Autistic, I could still understand what she was saying.
Like her, I cannot, and have never been able to, relate to the parents who feel that autism has "stolen" their child and compare the day they received the diagnosis of autism to the 9/11 terrorist attacks.
But then, on the other side, there are some ways that I don't relate to my Autistic brothers and sisters either. I'm not referring to the individual variation you'll find in ALL people. And I'm not referring to racial, religious, gender, or other differences either. I'm talking about something else.
Many Autistics have gained a level of knowledge through their lives experiences, many of which have been painful ones. I am a "newbie" of sorts to neurodiversity and to Autistic activism, but despite that, I am right there with them.
Autistic adults are amazing. I am completely in awe of my community every day. They are NOT without flaws and certainly our community, like any other, has many areas where we could, and MUST improve. However, even with all of our "warts" the core purpose of Autistic activism and advocacy still has tremendous merit - and it is largely altruistic as well.
Despite being regularly unappreciated, misrepresented, ignored, belittled, and misunderstood, most Autistic adults are primarily engaged in activism because they are motivated by a desire to prevent others from going through the rejection, discrimination, and hurt that they've been through not just from society as a whole, but sadly, often from within their very own families--families that didn't understand them and often didn't accept them.
And that's the major difference between myself and many other Autistics, I think. I've been through a lot of painful things as well in my lifetime. I feel their pain, and their passion. But only to a certain point.
Because all my pain and rejection came from the outside. I fortunately never had to endure any of that from my family. They knew I was different from others, though they weren't exactly sure what it was called or why. They didn't care. They loved me. Supported me. Accepted me.
I believe sincerely that a lot of the reason that I lived and navigated my life successfully for over three decades as an undiagnosed Autistic female of color is because even though the "real world" was ableist (and sexist, racist, classist, and a whole lot of other "ists" too, but that's another convo), and was brutal, intolerant, cruel, and hateful, every time I walked into the door of my home I walked into a haven.
My family is NOT perfect. OMG they are SO not. We're all a little "off" in our own way. But all my life from the day I was born to the present I knew, and I know, that I am 100% loved and accepted exactly for whom I am. That was a powerful, and much needed truth. Sometimes it was all I had to keep me going when everything in the world was falling apart around me. I could rely unequivocally, unfailingly, unquestionably, unconditionally on the love, acceptance, and support of my family. Not in spite of being Autistic/different. Including it.
And this Autistics Speaking Day, and every Autistics Speaking Day afterward, that is my hope, my prayer, my wish for ALL of my people on the spectrum. That even when the whole world is spewing out nothing but hate, they can rest in the knowledge that their family (and for some, "family" will refer to their family of CHOICE, not their relatives) is giving them nothing but pure unadulterated love.
Happy Autistics Speaking Day 2014 to all of us. Much love from me and mine.