Autism “Politics”: Who Speaks For or With Autism?

Happy World Autism Day! As it’s World Autism Day, I want to address how messy autism advocacy can be. There are two sides to what I call “Autism Politics: Neurodiversity, those autistics who advocate for themselves and their supporters, and Autism Parents, those parents who advocate because they have children with autism. Now both sides are not exclusive, as opinion on autism can be as much of a spectrum as autism itself. To be honest, I’m not personally on one side on the other. I have Asperger’s Syndrome, and my older brother has autism as well as being intellectually disabled and bipolar. Here I will present both sides, and then explain my own opinions based on my experiences.

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The Autism Awareness Ribbon

“Autism parents” are those who live with those who have autism and their supporters. This group is commonly allied with Autism Speaks, the most common non-profit organization that advocates for Autism Awareness. This side struggles with adjusting those with autism in order to better adapt them to the world around them and vice versa. This camp believes that autism can be cured, and the source of autism could be vaccines or other unnatural causes. They prefer person-first language, such as a “person having autism.” The primary symbol is the puzzle piece, as autism is a puzzle that needs to be understood. They use the color blue, as in #lightitupblue, or a mix of primary colors.

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Neurodiversity symbol

The “Neurodiversity “camp includes those autistics that can speaking  for themselves and advocate on their own, #actuallyautistics, and their neurotypical supporters. They focus on the positive qualities of autism, and support natural behavior such as stimming, various communicative behaviors, and sensory sensitivity. This camp looks to better accept the various types of brain neurologies and intellectual disabilities as different abilities. They advocate for “Autism Acceptance” rather than “Autism Awareness.” The source of autism is more likely genetics. They prefer identity first language, such as a “autistic person.” The primary symbol is a rainbow infinity sign, and use a rainbow to support the neurodiversity spectrum. They protest #lightitupblue by wearing #redinstead or #toneitdowntaupe.

I stand in the middle, kind of. I am wearing #redinstead, but I’m not fully integrated into the neurodiversity paradigm.  I grew up with my older brother who has autism, and I have Aspergers myself. I prefer that both sides should listen to each other. Some parents sadly suffer by raising those with autism, as I did having a older brother with autism. Autistics suffer only because we are living in a world that’s not made for us. I believe that God made my brother and I  both autistic, and I have learned how my faith helps me identify myself by Christ, rather than just a stigmatized disability. We should help those who suffer by raising autistics and the stigma behind autism so we can better accept each other. Stop, listen, and love. Happy Autism Acceptance Day! For Catholics and Christians as myself, Happy Easter!

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