What is X?
X marks the spot.
Solve for X.
X is the unknown. X feels impossible to define or narrow down.
I know what I want. I know I want equality. I know that I want Autistic children to grow up feeling a sense of pride in their identity and being free from traumatising therapy aimed at normalisation. I want acceptance, and I fight against the ideas of those who don’t think we deserve to be accepted for exactly who we are.
We are Autistic. We are neurodivergent.
I have spent a lot of my life concealing those parts of my identity. I tried to conform to societal standards of normal, and I failed. I miss the cues that everyone else seems to pick up on with ease. I got told that I was broken. I’ve been labelled as disordered. I’ve been told to be more like that and less like this. I really tried, and I failed, and because of that, I believed what I had been told; I was broken and disordered. I needed to find something or someone to fix me. I lacked self-acceptance.
It was a struggle for me to move beyond that, and I would not have been able to do it without the Autistic people in the community to which I belong. That process has led to me questioning a lot of what society expects of people, and if anything is broken and in need of fixing, it is the societies that we live in.
For me, that’s the problem that we need to solve: There’s the X for us. How do we fix something which is so broken when we’re looked at by the broken thing as the ones that are broken?
“All we can do is our best, and sometimes, the best we can do is start over.”
– Peggy Carter (Captain America)
Unfortunately, it’s probably not possible to start over with building a society that isn’t broken, but we really do need to tear down a lot of the systems within society in order to fix the problems that exist.
Unlike many autistic adults, so many more children are growing up with the knowledge that they are autistic, and that gives them an amazing opportunity but at the same time it puts them at increased risk.
On one hand, if their autistic selves are embraced, celebrated and accepted, they can grow up without having to struggle to overcome a lack of self-acceptance that many of us do. They can practice Autistic Pride, and they can show the world that being different is ok.
On the other hand, if they are treated as though they are broken and in need of fixing, then they will face the same struggle that we did except possibility a harder one because society is now filled with messages telling everyone what a burden autistic people are.
So, for me, that’s what we’re trying to solve. By highlighting the principles of the neurodiversity paradigm, we’re showing people that diversity of any kind is valuable. We’re fight against the idea that societies hold that there is one ideal way to be to give neurodivergent children the opportunity to grow up accepting who they are, and travelling their own paths unhindered by the societal expectations of conformity.
“Definitions belong to the definers, not the defined.”
– Toni Morrison
We’re taking back the power from the people who have defined us for years, and we’re defining and redefining ourselves. The children who come after us won’t have to hear the definitions of people who want to fix us. We can offer them our definitions: The ones where we outline our differences without looking at them as deficits.
Other people might still have the power to label us, but we wear those labels with pride and defiance in order to show society that our labels do define us and the definitions of our labels belong to us.
This is part of a series of posts addressing themes from the neurodiversity movement and paradigm which will be published during the course of April 2016. To read the rest of the posts, please click here.