Today is Valentine’s Day, a perfect day for Aspies everywhere to give themselves the gift of loving acceptance.
Today is the day to discover that autists are making waves, promoting our Autistic voices by demanding that research begin to focus on the positive instead of the negative features of autism. It is a day to recognize those individuals and organizations who are working toward changing the way that research into autism is conducted.
They are people like Vivian Ly[i], whose slogan is Nothing About Us Without Us.
Ly says that Applied Behavioural Analysis can be compared to autistic masking behaviours. Her position is that people with autism need to be accepted as they are, and not programmed to fit into more societally acceptable ‘normal’ slots. She is also outraged by researchers and organizations that attempt to speak for autistics. We have voices. We can speak for ourselves, Ly states.
Another autist, Kieran Rose, has along with Amy Pearson published a paper on why autists camouflage their behavior, and how harmful to the psyche this can be. Published in the academic journal, Autism in Adulthood, Kieran’s article on masking analysis is free to read at the URL given below[ii]. He also has a blog, The Autistic Advocate, if you’d like to check it out.
Michelle Dawson[iii] is an autistic person who has fought both legal and academic battles for the rights of autistic people. In spite of never attending university as a student, she has presented to and influenced decisions in the Supreme Court of Canada, worked with autism research teams at the University of Montreal and is cited in a considerable number of academic papers. She has also received the Ordre de Montreal as a result of her consistent voice in advocating for the rights of autistic people.
Dawson describes autism as a neurological difference in development, one which determines how we process information. This atypical brain-routing results in behaviours and thinking that is different from the ‘neurotypical’. Dawson presents these differences as strengths rather than as a negative stereotype.[iv]
It may also be helpful to note that online communities for Autists by Autists have been springing up all over. In Ontario, Canada, A4A (Autists for Autists). In Western Canada, Autists United, and the Autism CRC Co-operative Research Centre whose vision is to see autists empowered in their diverse strengths and interests.
So look on the bright side. The world’s perception of those of us on the spectrum is slowly changing. Thanks to the persistent lobbying of our fellow autists in promoting the recognition of our unique neurological processes, we are beginning to embrace who we are and how we process the world. More and more people, including those who are positioned in such a way that they can influence societal changes in attitude, understand and accept our condition.
They are fighting for us to be accepted as we are.
That, surely is cause for a tremendous Valentine’s Day celebration!
[ii] A critical analysis of Autistic Masking: Understanding the Narrative of Stigma and the Illusion of Choice.
[iv] the autism crisis: science & ethics in the era of autism advocacy : What’s autism anyway?