Today is the last day of what has been called World Autism Awareness Week, which for me, brings up the paradigm of how autism is viewed in society. For the past 20 years, I’ve had to live with the fact that my life has revolved around the autistic label, perhaps because it has inexorably separated me from the rest of “normal society”. I never wanted anything to do with autism, but I guess I had to live with it. The past two decades saw me trying to navigate a world with its own logic, where autism is considered a problem to be cured, rather than a difference that should be understood and accepted.
For all we claim to have progressed when it comes to dealing with autism, there’s always something beneath that shining veneer. Out of all the myriad of autism charities, the most popular of them appears to be Autism Speaks, an organization supporters by celebrities such as Adam Sandler, Céline Dion, Will Arnett, Jonah Hill, along with several others. Don’t let the celebrity backers fool you (in my case, however, that makes things more suspicious. The problem is that Autism Speaks operates under the assumption that autism is a disease to be cured, appealing to the mentality of most parents.
Of course, that’s not the only problem. Autism Speaks literally doesn’t have a single autistic person on their board of directors, which essentially means that none of the decisions they make represent the interests of anyone with autism. While a large chunk of their budget does go towards research, the majority of it goes towards causation and prevention of autism, and the organization has made videos designed to promote their perverted view that autism is a stigma (one video, called I Am Autism, features a menacing voice proclaiming “I work faster than pediatric aids, cancer, and diabetes combined, and if you’re happily married, I will make sure that your marriage fails.”). Nobody who actually speaks for autism would ever try to eliminate the very thing that makes them unique, and I doubt that any organization who actually fights for autistic people would run such a disgusting ad.
That’s not even the worst offence. It turns out that Autism Speaks is known to have or have had ties with the Judge Rotenburg Centre, an organization famous for using electroshock therapy as treatment for the disabled, as well as the autistic (that they view autism as a disability should immediately be suspicious). They have been known to shock autistic children for minor infractions, believing that it will “cure autism”. People used to think they could “cure” homosexuality with electroshock therapy, but it never worked. They just wanted to torture people for being different, and I can only assume that the JRC still does this today. If that’s true, then it should be even more alarming that Autism Speaks recommends the JRC to parents as a potential resource. At this point, Autism Speaks are either complicit in sending autistic kids to be tortured, or they have no idea of that happening (or pretending not to know), and at some point, there is absolutely no difference.
Of course, all this happens because Autism Speaks knows how to prey on the worries of parents, specifically those who are most concerned with integrating their autistic children into “normal society”, that’s where all this madness really stems from. For all our talk of freedom and self-expression, mainstream society still expects everyone to think and act virtually the same, and because autistic people see things differently to normal people, society treats it as a disease just because conformity isn’t in our nature.
They’re missing the point anyway. There is no cure for autism, and even if there were, the vast majority of autistic people do not want a cure. I know I don’t. If we could develop a cure for autism, then as long as we’re trying to help people “be normal”, why not a cure for scepticism, or creativity, or perhaps even passion? That would be just as ridiculous as trying to find a cure for autism. I can understand why some parents would think their autistic children might be suffering, but trust me, the biggest cause of suffering for an autistic child will be living in a society that isn’t friendly to the autistic, or anything that differs from what they consider normal.
I wish people would stop acting like they’re trying to save us. We are not victims of anything, and we are certainly not diseased. I think there’s a better way to describe the autistic mind – always unique, totally interesting, and sometimes mysterious. That certainly describes me very well. I may not want to be treated differently because I have autism, but I accept that it will always be a part of my life, and nowadays, that’s something I’m not completely ashamed of.