I will begin by saying this. If this article was written by another individual and posted anonymously, this article would be crucified by some individuals. And you know what, that’s the entire point of this article. To deliver some uncomfortable, but necessary, truths to the Autistic Community.
I don’t do what I do to be popular. If I wanted to be popular, I’d open a puppy petting zoo! I do what I do, because I want to help people who have been in the same position I have been.
I am painted in a false light by many many people. On one side, I’m painted as some sort of extremist who crusades for all parents to be silenced and for Autistic People to rule supreme in a global overthrow of the system.
I’m also painted as a role model and the example of how to be as an Autistic Person, and that everyone should aspire to be like me.
I’m neither. I’m a 24 year old kid who is still finding his way in the world,and just wants to help people by telling his story.
First thing is first; not everyone likes or supports Neurodiversity. That’s a fact. And that if someone doesn’t support or like Neurodiversity, that’s acceptable. I didn’t like it in the past either, but I, in time, came around to the idea, and could see the benefits and identified more and more with it. But it is flawed in some aspects, and it’s important to bear that in mind. No idea can be all things to all people.
I didn’t like Neurodiversity because, put simply, I felt that my Autism and ADHD was the main barriers to me having a happy and successful life. So why in the world would I support an idea that says I should accept these two conditions?!
Now, if I came out in the present time and said these things, I am nearly certain I’d be rounded upon and told I’m an ableist, curbie, and so on and so forth. That wouldn’t have changed my mind, if anything, that would make my views more entrenched.
No, what changed my views was that there was individuals who talked me through it, empathised with how I felt, talked to me about how they felt the same way, and also showing me different ways of thinking, different ways of seeing things, a different way of life basically. It was that message of positivity, hope and happiness was the thing that attracted me to the idea of Neurodiversity, not being shouted at by loads of people on the internet.
I will now return to the opening paragraph of this post; that if it was someone else writing this, the reaction would be very different.
This is something I would like to call “Advocate Olympics”, where various individuals are more concerned with showing themselves as being the perfect, faultless, model advocate, and absolutely crucify anyone who makes a mistake, uses the wrong language, supports the wrong group, and so on.
Again, simply shouting at people that they are wrong is not going to change many people’s minds.
As a younger person, and just starting out on my Journey, I supported Autism Speaks. I supported and promoted Light It Up Blue. There is a picture of me standing outside Belfast City Hall with a LIUB banner, supporting the event. I did all these things because I believed it was the right thing to do, it was me trying to help. I didn’t know the whole picture, and shouting at me how terrible I am for doing these things wasn’t going to show me the whole picture.
Now, if in the present day I done these things, I’d have been absolutely hung out to dry, and absolutely barracked by people and telling me how much of a bad person I am and how I should go away and never ever speak about Autism again, and probably a few more things besides.
What helped me to see the big picture was a group of people who showed me the reality of Autism Speaks, and what Light It Up Blue represented. These individuals showed me a better way of doing things, and what is a better way to help people. And it’s these folks (who I won’t name) who helped me down the road and helped me really come to terms with who I am, and what I am.
Neurodiversity does a lot of things well. The Autistic Community does a lot of things exceptionally well. But I think, over the past few months or so, we have became less understanding of others who don’t always share our views.
I’m aware this will provoke a fair bit of debate and probably a fair bit of controversy, and I hope it does. It’s difficult to look in the mirror and say “you know what, we could do better”, but for the sake of Autistic People everywhere, we do need to do better.
We don’t know what journey a person has travelled, to arrive at their destination. We don’t understand how they have got to their beliefs, unless we talk to them about it.
We want people to understand us better. But we should be trying to understand why other people feel the way that they do. I’m not saying you have to agree with them, or say they are correct, but at least put their shoes on and see how they look at the world. It can benefit us all.