Half-in, half-out acceptance

I’ve written a bit about this before, but I think more words need to be written about it.

To me, the idea of non-autistic parents saying that they want acceptance can also be tied to being an ally. To see what I mean, read this post from Autism Women’s Network which discusses whether allies are helping or hurting.

The thing that I encounter a lot when talking to non-autistic parents is that they often say “we want to listen and learn” or “we want acceptance”. That’s admirable. At the same time, they tell us how to speak to them, or how to do things so that they will continue to listen to us.

That’s not really listening and learning. Listening and learning means listening to what we’re saying in the way in which we say it. We have differences in our communication styles. Sometimes we simply don’t have the spoons necessary to make our communication nicey-nicey in order to ensure that no one’s feelings are hurt.

I can be blunt sometimes because I just need to tell you the thing and I can’t really tell it in a nice way. That doesn’t mean that I’m attacking anyone. It just means that I have information that I think it is important for you to know. I’m doing it because I think it will be helpful for you to know.

Recently, a parent claimed that I had offended her because I corrected her on the use of neurodiversity-related words. I don’t want this post to turn into a discussion of various terms, but I will highlight that no individual is diverse. It takes a group to be diverse, and calling an individual diverse can actually be offensive. No individual can be neurodiversity or have neurodiversity because that means all brains. For reasons why, please look at this page on Nick Walker’s site.

I expressed my confusion over how I had offended her given that I was only explaining the definition of words. She told me that she was proud of her child and that she will speak about them in her words. I was also told that she didn’t appreciate being lectured, and that whether she was right or wrong, she was well-intentioned.

Good intentions don’t cancel out being wrong though, and using words that can cause offense is wrong.

My response was that I knew that she loved her son. I was only correcting her so that she wouldn’t cause unintentional offense to others. She said “while you have that attitude you are going to ostracize many people because we love our kids and want acceptance for them.”

She had been claiming that she wanted to listen to and learn from autistic adults, and I was trying to help her not offend those autistic adults. I’m not sure how saying that the meaning of words is important actually ties in with having “that attitude” (whatever attitude that may be).

Why am I blogging about this instead of addressing it with the person who said those things? Because it happened on Facebook and she blocked me. My final block-worthy offense? Pointing out that one day her son would be an autistic adult. When that happens, he probably will encounter NT parents. Yes, perhaps that was probably offensive of me, but I figure since I had already offended her by defining words, there was very little point in holding back.

I am wary of people who say they want to listen and learn but only on their terms. I am very, very tired of people who say they want acceptance for their children without actually accepting autistic adults as we are.

That’s not acceptance. A half-in, half-out position is not acceptance. That’s a “I want it for my child but I couldn’t give a stuff about anyone else” position.

I would rather deal with people who are completely against acceptance than deal with half-in, half-out people. At least I know where I stand with people who are against acceptance. I never know where I stand with half-in, half-out people. Half-in, half-out people tend to claim their ally points when it suits them. They say things like “I supported you with x and now you will listen to me with y” when both x and y are things that are important to autistic people.

That’s not acceptance, and that’s not being an ally. That’s self-interest, which is fine but at least have the courtesy to admit it.

We’re not here to tell you things only in the way you want to be told them. We don’t even have to tell you anything at all because we’re not a public information service.

We’re people. We do things differently to neurotypical people. We have to adjust the way we do things all the time in order to make ourselves understandable to neurotypical people. We’re hardly ever met halfway. Neurotypical people seldom adjust their way of doing things for us. That’s neurotypical privilege and it’s icky.

We tell you things because we want your children to grow up undamaged. If you don’t listen, we will do our best to fix your children when they reach adulthood. Sometimes, we can do that successfully and sometimes we can’t, but we would really prefer it if we didn’t have to do it at all. We wouldn’t have to do it if you just accommodated our differences in communication styles to lean in and listen.

So, if you’re neurotypical and you feel like an autistic person is “lecturing” you, perhaps put aside those feelings, and hear what they’re saying. Info dumping is one of the many things we commonly do. We do it because we have information that we think may be of value to you. We do it because we want you to understand that what you say and do matters to us. It can matter to us because it hurts us, or it can matter to us because it helps us. Please try not make every interaction with us about your feelings. We have feelings too which we often have to put aside while we’re communicating with you.