[CN: Ableism, Awareness, ABA]
I’m unsure how to start this post. I’ve been staring at this screen for a little while now. I’ve typed a few words and deleted them, but I’m still struggling to find the words, so I guess I’ll just start:
Last year, my son started learning to read. I wrote about the process for Respectfully Connected because this wasn’t a skill that was easy for him to learn, and it is still something that we’re working on. He’s not like me where I read all-the-things. He has to make a conscious effort to decode letters, but he is starting to do that unprompted when we’re out and about which is where my story starts.
Yesterday, we went for a walk to go get an ice cream and we encountered this:
My son read those words. He wanted to know why people would want to wrestle part of him.
This isn’t even a unique campaign. People want to smash autism, stamp out autism, battle autism, and any number of other words that imply that there is something very wrong with the way we are.
So, how do you explain this to a nine year old? He already knows that a lot of people dislike us simply because of the way our brains work, but he’s been fortunate in that he hasn’t had too many instances of being confronted by things like this.
To save you the trouble of googling aeiou foundation, here’s an excerpt from their about page on Facebook:
“AEIOU Foundation is a not-for-profit organisation dedicated to providing a best-practice, fulltime early intervention and learning program for children aged 2½ to 6 years who have been diagnosed with Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASD). “
They say “out wrestle autism” as though you can separate the autism from us. We’re not neurotypical people hidden within an autism bubble. You cannot remove that particular part of us because that’s the way our brains work as a whole. Given that our brains are responsible for how we perceive, interpret and interact with the world, it’s simply not possible to out wrestle autism.
This constant narrative of battling autism that is perpetuated by various organisations with vested interests in making autism appear to be a huge problem that only they can solve hurts. It hurts us – Autistic people – the people that these organisations are supposedly interested in helping.
When I commented on the aeiou Facebook advertisement of this event to say that it’s in really poor taste, they replied:
“We’re sorry you found this upsetting Cas. This event is a fundraiser to support young children with autism and designed to raise awareness across all communities.“
Yep, apparently my feelings and my son’s feelings don’t really matter because this is for young children. It’s totally ok to demonise an integral part of us if it somehow benefits young children because young children never grow up to become older children and adults that have to deal with the stigma caused by stuff like this.
I’ve written about awareness before. I have no more words to write about awareness today. Awareness doesn’t help anyone except the people who are running the awareness campaign.
If anything needs to be out wrestled (which I gotta be honest is a phrase that I’m unsure whether to laugh or cry about), then it’s ableism. Greater society needs to start realising that diversity is natural and beneficial. We aren’t all the same and that’s a good thing. If you want to change something, change society. We don’t need changing.