It’s no longer time for autism awareness.
When we live in a world where functioning labels are used to either deny services or to deny agency, we’ve passed the need for autism awareness. When we live in a world where abusive therapies are used to train children into being compliment, that ship has sailed. When we live in a world where only the spoken voice is “good enough”, there is no longer any use for us to be aware of autism. We’re plenty aware.
I am twenty-eight years old. To the outside eye, I am deemed high functioning. I live on my own with my cat, Athena. Even though I live on my own I require extensive supports. I’m not able to take public transit – partially because the Metro isn’t disability friendly but also it isn’t cognitively accessible to me. I can’t keep straight what side of the road to wait on. I often would miss my bus stop. The noises, sights, and smells would overwhelm and overload me. I require PCA care to help with basic tasks as washing dishes and making supper.
I am told to stop stimming. That I repeat myself a lot. That I loop. That I obsess over things. That I need to stop with my more so-called childish interests and be a grown up. But what is grown up, anyway? Isn’t it all arbitrary? What’s wrong with me liking what I like? It doesn’t hurt you if I still enjoy watching certain shows or listening to certain songs as an adult. It doesn’t hurt you if my stuffed animal travels everywhere with me. So why are you so hung up about these things?
The truth is, after over two decades, I’ve finally started accepting myself. I’ve accepted that I like wearing tutus in public for no other reason than it’s frilly and fluffy. I’ve decided I like being Autistic. It doesn’t mean I’m one of the lucky ones or that my struggles aren’t very real. It doesn’t mean that I am not any more or any less Autistic than anyone else – I just am. Accepting myself as Autistic was incredibly freeing.
Plenty of people are aware of me. Plenty of people are aware that autism exists. It’s time to stop using fear tactics. It’s time to stop making us fit into neat little boxes and telling us that we’re missing pieces. We aren’t. None of us are. We all have voices – but you have to choose to listen to us. We all have hopes, dreams, plans, and wishes – yet you have to choose to accept them.
I am tired of you being aware of autism. I am tired of you claiming “well, isn’t all awareness good?” No, no it isn’t. Everyone is aware – yet so few are accepting. Autism has always existed – we just now have a name for it. Being Autistic is who I am. Stop being aware of me. It’s time for you to accept us. We have accepted ourselves.
The ball is now in your court.