It was almost a year ago that I opened my Twitter account and waded into the world of autistic advocacy. I have learned so much since that time.
I’ve interacted with people of all kinds…
…autistic people who want to be treated and cured… and autistic people who want to be accommodated and celebrated…
…parents who are fighting governments to have behavioural therapy covered by insurance… and parents who are fighting the school system to have their children included in ‘mainstream’ classrooms…
…professionals who condescend to autistic people by downplaying self-advocates as ignorant and naive… and professionals who empower autistic people by listening and learning to self-advocates…
If there is one thing I’ve learned, it’s that there isn’t really a black-and-white dichotomy between “good” people and “bad” people.
In some cases, it can be very obvious, but in others, there’s more of a grey area. And while I’m certainly guilty of black-and-white thinking, I’ve always had an eclectic sort of attitude towards most ideas. “Take what you like and leave the rest.”
(Apparently this is a common saying in Alcoholics Anonymous, but it should be part of everyone’s attitude when doing work in self-improvement. Don’t force yourself to like ideas that don’t jive with you personally, but certainly don’t feel bad about adopting the ones that do.)
To my wonderful allies…
I remember starting out last year feeling like there was a very hard line between autistic self-advocates and “autism parents” (as well as professionals).
I want to extend massive amounts of gratitude to the parents of autistic people that I have met since then who let me into their lives, either on Facebook or in person. I also want to extend gratitude to all of the professionals that I have gotten to speak with.
As it turns out, there are thousands of (non-autistic) parents and professionals out there who are amazing allies, and some are doing groundbreaking work in publishing narratives, in doing research, and just in listening to autistic people.
It’s very encouraging!
For those who have opened up to me, I have this to say: I can’t promise that I’ll never let you down. I’m a human being, and there’s always the chance I’m going to say something wrong or have a bad day.
I can promise that you have my loyalty (and my good intentions, even though they sometimes steer me wrong). As long as you’re with us, I’m with you. All movements need allies. Allies who know when to stand up, when to take direction, and when to pass the microphone are a welcome and necessary part of my community.
To my wonderful neurosiblings…
I’ve met so many of you online, and I’ve had the great pleasure of meeting some in person.
We’re all so different. Our needs are different. Our language is different. Our experiences are different.
We disagree on a lot of things. Most of us aren’t influenced by the idea of conforming to avoid conflict, so it doesn’t surprise me that we have conflict almost constantly.
That said, I’ll move away from advocacy as a broad thing and just talk about personal interactions.
I want to extend massive gratitude to the autistic people who have given me platforms to talk about important issues, who have discussed differing ideas with me and stayed open, who have been honest and authentic with me in their interactions, who have validated my life’s experiences with their writing…
…and who have simply just become my friends.
It’s been years since I made more than a couple of new friends (even online). Last year, I made dozens.
To my unknown future…
I change my mind about what I want to do with my life a lot.
Being part of this community has felt right. I don’t know where I’m ultimately going to end up, but it’s going to involve serving and advocating for disabled people — my people.
Something about the past year, interacting with non-autistic parents and autistic parents and autistic kids and teenagers, has changed my mind about something I’ve gone back and forth on for a long time, which is that I think I would like to be a parent.
I know soooo much now. I feel like that knowledge should go to good use. I think I have positive values. I think I’ve learned a lot of coping skills. I think I could be a good role model. I think I could be a good parent.
I can’t have children, though, so it’s a long road ahead if I want to take it (donors and surrogacy and adoption, oh my)… and there are some things I want to do before I become a parent, like finish university.
In the meantime, the idea provides a bit of motivation to me that I’ve been needing. If I want to be a good parent, I need to be able to take care of myself better. If I can take care of myself better, I can take care of someone else better.
I learned this through through activism. Activism generally involves caring a lot about other people, and activists will often overdo it, pushing themselves way too hard. What every activist needs to know is that if you want to fight to the best of your ability, you need to take really good care of yourself.
So that’s my new year’s resolution in a nutshell… take care of myself better, so I can take care of everyone else better.
So far it includes learning how to cook and being more consistent with hygiene and exercise. Those things all need specific definitions and goals, or they’ll mean nothing, so I’ll narrow it down in future posts!