I wrote a post a week ago that included the meme above. It was shared on Facebook by The Bullshit Fairy (Facebook link – check out her page because she’s awesome), and from there it was shared by a number of people on a number of pages. What I found really, really interesting was the way some people reacted to the image by saying that it created division in the community.
I could sit back and go “Wow! A thing that I created has massive power” but that would be disingenuous because very few images have that amount of power, and that one certainly doesn’t.
That image may have pointed out that a divide exists, but it didn’t create it. It was always there. There is a division in the community because it is not one whole, homogenous community.
Firstly, there is a difference between the autism communities and the autistic communities. Amazing Adventures parenting Autistic children explains this difference well, so I don’t need to go into that difference here.
But, did you notice that I said communities and not community?
When I first stepped out of the neurotypical box, I sort of thought that there was one autism community and one autistic community. I thought that because I always read about the autism community and the autistic community. I’ve even written about the autistic community in the singular, but I noticed that there were differences, that there were different groups within the community. So I asked, and a kind, wise and gentle Autistic person explained to me that there are multiple communities which makes a lot of sense when you think about it.
There are multiple communities on either side. There are multiple autistic communities: some who embrace the neurodiversity paradigm, some who still accept the pathology paradigm, some who maintain that functioning labels have a purpose, some who believe that functioning labels are ableist and useless (note: this is my position), some who prefer identity-first language, and some who don’t.
Similar things could be said about autism communities: some parents and professionals believe that a cure is a necessary goal, some parents and professionals accept autistic people for exactly who they are and reject any talk of cures, some parents and professionals believe that ABA is best, while others don’t.
These communities overlap in complex ways and are also divided in complex ways. There is some value in that diversity and there are also harmful beliefs and practices in some sectors of that diversity.
Onto my meme: the same could be said about an autistic parent of an autistic child. Using myself as an example. I have lived experience as an autistic person. My son also has lived experience as an autistic person. There are, however, differences, in our lived experiences. That’s not divisive to say. It’s a simple statement of fact.
So, I didn’t create the divide by creating a meme that is a simple statement of fact. We’re different, and that is ok to say.