The reason I speak out against Autism Speaks is because I love my Autistic son. I love him so much that he has forced me to love myself too. If you are not Autistic or otherwise Disabled, you might not know what it is like to grow up with these messages of hate and fear and people treating you like you're nothing but a horrible burden on society.
You hear about what you cost, you hear about how if you could just act a little less Autistic, people would like you so much more. Even those of us who grew up without a name for what made us different....we felt it too.
So you start to lie. You pretend that if you just keep trying, you can be as normal as everyone else. And you work so damn hard at it. They put you in social skills classes, or therapies to try to make you just like everyone else. You try. But at the end of the day, you know it's a lie. When they tell you "Great job!", they are congratulating you for a lie. They are telling you that who you are, it's not okay, but if you just keep trying to not be that person, to not be Autistic, to not be so damn embarrassing all the time, you might be acceptable someday.
But it's never enough because the price you pay for not being your authentic self is just too high. So you learn to hate yourself. You learn to wish you weren't you. You learn to settle for people treating you like dirt because what else do you deserve? For some of us, that never changes. For some of us, for me, it's a constant work in progress to love myself.
But I love my son and he's like me. We are the same, but different. I don't want him to think that he can't be the person he was born to be. He was born perfect and he makes my life worth living every single day. I can't express to you the love that I feel for him because I don't even think there is a word invented for that kind of love. I just know that loving him has helped me to accept myself too. Loving him has opened my mind and my world to such amazingly wonderful things. Loving him has helped me to find community, to find my people.
He has given me so many gifts and blessings, and again, I don't think there is a word in this language to accurately describe that. It is so overwhelming and beautiful to have him in my life.
So, when I see a group saying that they are speaking for him, but talking about his life as a tragedy, a burden, a cost to society....that tells me that as his mother, I am "barely living". No. I do not accept that because it is so far from our reality and our lives. He is love. He is never hate.
Autism Speaks is hate. They have no business talking about my amazing Autistic son like that. They have no business talking about my friends like that. They have no business talking about ME like that.
So, I will continue to speak out against hate. Because I love my son. I love my Autistic friends and I love myself. Finally.