Heck, let’s just call it Autism Acceptance Eon!
I’m being silly, but I’m also being very serious. Now that we’ve become somewhat clearer about what autism is and how many different ways it manifests, we’ve realized that there are a lot of autistic people around us — in our families, in our neighborhoods, and in our communities.
To be clear, these people have always been here (see the wonderful book We’ve Been Here All Along: Autistics Over 35 Speak Out in Poetry and Prose), and now we have the opportunity, finally, to recognize, welcome, and support our autistic friends and family members properly. Let the Autism Acceptance Eon begin!
Acceptance is an Action
At the beginning of this month, I posted about International Autism Awareness Day, and then I went to my Facebook page to create a silly series of pictures for my autistic friends and for my friends who are parents of autistic children. I did this because the autism awareness circus can be pretty grueling for my autistic friends and their families. So many autism organizations present autism as a melodramatic tragedy and an epidemic, and they manufacture a lot of panic and pity that helps them gather donations, but actually makes the lives of many autistic people — especially adults — very uncomfortable.
So I created a group of silly pictures and started tagging my friends in the autistic community — and wow. I didn’t realize it until that day, but this community has welcomed me — a complete stranger — into their lives. My feed is filled with autistic people and their families! Filled! My tags got ridiculously long, so much so that I had to figure out how to organize them. This is a vibrant online community, and so deeply connected that I just sat there and marveled at how open, funny, warm, welcoming, and loving the autistic community is.
So let me tell you what I see in my autistic friends — because these real-life views don’t often find their way into those dreadful fundraising pleas.
My autistic friends are …
Highly, wildly empathic
My autistic friends and their families are fully human, with all the majesty and all the flaws that humans are prone to. I thank my many neurodiverse and autistic friends, and the parents of autistic children, for inviting me into your intensely empathic community and helping me understand empathy at a much deeper level than I ever did before. Thank you for your ausomeness!