Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Autism and Activism in Our Family

Huffington Post Parents has been running a series of articles and essays on "Autism in our Family" featuring a variety of different perspectives on parenting Autistic children from parent bloggers.  None of the essays I read were actually written by an Autistic person.

So, being the complain-y pants I am, I sent some e-mails about this.  I was told that I could submit something myself if I felt so inclined.  I did submit something, but it was not selected to be published there.   So, I figured I would publish it here instead:  

Image is purple scratchy background with white dandelion on the right.  
White text outlined in black reads:  "Autism in our family is activism.
Because the alternative is self-defeating."

When people say autism is different in everyone, I only can think, "Of course it is!" 

Autistic people, like everyone else, are human beings with their own interests, abilities, challenges and personalities. What we have in common is a shared neurology that makes our experience of this world very different from the majority of non-Autistic people. Even in that shared neurology and many 
similarities, our experiences of this world are still unique to each individual. 

I am an Autistic parent to an Autistic child. A Disability activist, an advocate, a writer, an artist, a wife, a homeschooler, a valuable member of my community. I am all of those things because I am Autistic, not 
in spite of it. 

Every day, my son and I face discrimination and stigmatization for being openly Autistic. For all the "awareness" that is so popular now, there is very little understanding and even less in the way of authentic inclusion. We both need a lot of support in this world, and getting that support without being 
faced with a lot of hostility and resentment is difficult. 

Still, we press on. 

We are inspired and encouraged by Disability activists who came before us and helped to provide us with the rights we do have now. My son and I read stories together about Ed Roberts and other Disability Rights activists who were fighting long before the ADA. 

Together, we read the poetry of Amy Sequenzia. My son loves poetry, and has a deep love and admiration for Amy, a non speaking Autistic activist, writer and someone who I have the honor of calling my friend. Amy is someone who inspires a sense of pride in my little boy through their shared neurology. 

Through the internet and technology, my son has been luckier than I, to find his tribe at such a young age. He has Autistic friends and mentors that give him a sense of connection and meaning when the rest of the world is not so kind. I am forever grateful to my Autistic community for being a part of our 

Autistic culture, and Autistic pride, those things are imperative to who we are and where we are going. 

They are so important to my husband, my son and I that we decided to share the stories of Autistic people with our entire community. We collected books and films from Autistic authors, filmmakers, and artists to lend to those in our community who seek to understand the Autistic experience. We created an Autism Acceptance Lending Library.   Autism in our family is activism because the alternative is self defeating. 

It is a deep yearning to make the world a better place for people like us to live in. It is fueled by an intense desire to bring about understanding and social change. Most importantly, it is motivated by love. Love for who we are, and where we come from. 

In the words of my friend Neurodivergent K :

This is Autism in our family.