Here is my “autism awareness” outfit. No not really. But kind of.
It isn’t blue or red or gold or rainbow, and it doesn’t have a puzzle piece or whatever it is we are supposed to have instead. It’s just the clothes I have been wearing for more than a week. Because I’m tired. I don’t feel like changing clothes. I am comfortable in these. I don’t care if they haven’t been washed. I have been using what little energy I have to do other things. Because that is my life sometimes, most of the time.
Other than to go outside to feed a sick squirrel, I have not left home since my last doctor appointment. I can’t remember when that was but there was snow. This is life and it is autism and it is other things, but it’s the truth because it’s my reality. It’s where I’m at right now. Now you’re aware.
I have seen so much drama in the online autism community about awareness and acceptance and everything I should be doing and not doing this month that I feel like leaving Facebook until it’s over. I have watched other autistic people be bashed about their word choices or profile pictures, or get so stressed about Autism Acceptance Month that they have taken a FB break…a break from the only place they previously felt accepted, a place where they had friends. That’s what is happening.
I am sad right now. I personally am numb to whether people accept me as a person or not. However it would be nice to see real acceptance, for actual autistic people of all ages. I have seen some posts offering ways to offer real help instead of “lighting up” profiles or being a “slacktivist”.
My suggestion to any non-autistic person is to try to see things from our point of view even just for one day. For many of us, we spend our whole lives being forced to try to fit into yours, and then being punished in various ways for not being able to do it your way. So maybe think of it like this. If you are right handed, every time you go to write something try to write with your left foot instead. And if you can’t do it, know you will be punished and ridiculed and that society will want to dedicate resources to trying to cure you or prevent you. Because everyone but you writes with their left feet. You’re the one in 60-whatever it is now. Sure your parents love you (if you’re lucky). But If you want to survive and be independent in this world, you will have to learn to be left-footed. Now imagine that your whole life revolves around being forced to learn to write with your left foot. Maybe you make some progress and people blog about how cute and inspirational you are. And maybe others want to raise awareness to prevent this whole hand-writing thing. Maybe your parents blog about how much of a burden you are when your inability to be left-footed keeps them awake all night and deprives them of a normal life, because they’re tired and need to vent… and maybe you grow up bullied and finally become a little independent but you can’t find work because everyone knows you aren’t naturally left-footed. But you try your best and just hope to survive some days. And you long for a world where people could just let you be yourself, because you don’t know how to be anyone else and you are tired. So tired that you can’t even communicate. And then people get mad at you for not using your words. That’s what life is like for many autistic people I know including myself, except it is worse in so many ways than will fit into this analogy.
I know it’s impossible to really walk in someone else’s shoes. But maybe just remember that we have shoes.
I am so grateful for the friends I have made through this page. It is sometimes the closest thing to acceptance that I have. If you are one of the people who I have seen posting about how you wish you could make a real difference for autism beyond awareness, I encourage you to get to know autistic people even if it is just through social media. Befriend them or even just listen to them and don’t assume you know more about their lives than they do. Or if you have kids teach your children respect by respecting them as people and encouraging them to accept other people as different than them but not less than them.
I hope there comes a time when we no longer have to dedicate a day or a month to raising awareness or acceptance for why we should be treating each other like human beings.