Autism Advocacy

After having done much autism advocacy work, I have summed up my position below:

1) Autism is distinct from its ‘friends’. Autism is not the same as the hyperactivity, allergies, depression, anxiety, sensory processing, epilepsy, intellectual disability and other disorders or special needs that often accompany it.

2) Autism is a neutral difference in neurology. Instead of specializing in socializing and executive functioning, the autistic brain specializes in systematic and logical functioning. This gives the appearance that the autistic is overly developed in systematic analysis while being underdeveloped in emotional maturity and decision making. Just like the differences in the male and female brains, neither brain is inherently inferior or superior to the other. It is not a disorder or illness, however it is a handicap if we wish to function in mainstreams society.

3) Autism is inherently neutral. Like unmolded clay, it can be shaped by skillful hands into a great gift, or careless ones into a great burden.

4) Autism is a part of me that can be improved, just like my brown eyes. There is no need to be proud or ashamed of it. There is also no need to keep it the same as we can always improve on it, just as I can deal with my myopia problem if I wear contact lens or go for eye surgery.

5) Address the resentment, ignorance and fear towards autistic people. Demanding rights for autistic people is counterproductive if these three issues are not addressed. Autism Awareness of the wrong type can also make these issues even worse such as alerting potential employers and insurance companies to screen out autistic people.

6) Always take a pragmatic view. Progress can only be made if we discuss issues based on what reality is now, not as what it should be or can be. For instance, proposals for members of our mainstream society to accommodate autistics at the expense of themselves are unrealistic, unless the autistics become rich and powerful. Demands to ban the genetic screening of autism are unrealistic unless those making the demands are willing to adopt the resulting autistic offspring. Likewise, most parents will continue to send their children for autism therapy no matter what we say.

7) Be respectful of others and clear about our intentions. The autism community is full of highly emotional parents and autistics who are struggling with serious and often invisible issues. These people are likely to test our patience, so we should be firm and clear about how we interact with them.

8) We should put autism in perspective. Autism (and its associated disability movement) is just one issue out of millions affecting the world right now. Always bear in mind that autism advocacy work is just one small part of making the world a better place; there are also many other worthy causes and issues that require our help and attention.

9) Focus on improving ourselves. Life is never fair and has never been fair. Instead of demanding better treatment for ourselves, let us improve ourselves and better our lives despite the disadvantages we might have. Focusing on the negatives distracts us from pursuing the positives.