Way too often, I see the following statement made by either parents of autistic children or by autistic people themselves:
“Autism is not a mental illness.”
So, you don’t want autistic people and/or their families to experience the stigma that people with mental illnesses face, right? Autism is ok because it’s not like those other forms of neurodivergence, right?
You can’t do that. Throwing otherwise-neurodivergent people under the bus in an attempt to reduce the stigma that autistic people experience is counterproductive.
You can’t do that because many of us are multiply neurodivergent. Many of us are the same people that you’re throwing under that bus. Yes, of course, not all of us are multiply neurodivergent. But, there are enough of us who are that this should matter.
What can you do instead?
- Fight against the myth that mental illness is dangerous.
- Correct people when they imply that all people with psychiatric disabilities should be feared, locked up, and/or coercively controlled.
- Remind people that neurodiversity means all brains, and that diversity is valuable in society.
- Push for the cognitive liberation of all neurodivergent people where we can be free to decide how to improve the quality of our lives with or without assistance if we decide that that is what we need.
- Challenge all the diagnoses in the DSM because many of them probably don’t need to be there.
- Advocate for people to receive support on the basis of their needs rather than a diagnosis.
That list is incomplete. There are many other things you could do instead of perpetually trying to separate autism from otherwise-neurodivergent people.
Stop trying to separate people into groups who do and don’t deserve human rights based on arbitrary measures that have overwhelmingly been constructed by people who hold all the privilege. We all deserve equal human rights. We are all people.