I have made huge leaps to expand my experiences and consciousness beyond autism such that most people found it hard to believe that I have autism. I have done what many autism advocates claim is impossible: to enter into the NeuroTypical world in an authentic and stress-free manner. At the same time, I retain the autistic consciousness and autism traits.
I label myself as “Autistic+” and I advocate for a change in mindset within the autism community:
1) Instead of choosing between being autistic or NeuroTypical, let us engage in true diversity by embracing both identities at the same time.
2) Instead of seeing autism as a disease/disorder that we need to recover from, I suggest we see it as a different mode of human consciousness that can manifest itself in many different ways, some of which are advantageous and some disadvantageous.
3) Instead of holding autism up as a sacred part of our identity that we need to proclaim to everyone, let us put this into perspective by seeing it as just another part of us (like our gender, height and skin color). In other words, there are many parts of our identity and autism/NeuroTypicalism is just one out of many attributes.
4) Instead of becoming obsessed with our diagnosis/labels, we should instead of explain how our skills, talents and knowledge can make important contributions to potential employers and partners. As a friend said, “sell our skills and not our diagnosis”.
Autistic Pride is the reaction of many autistics to the idea that they are somehow defective, inferior or lacking because of autism. These autistics see the desperate attempts by parents to “cure” their autistic children are seen as yet another attempt to eliminate their uniqueness and ignore their identity. It is their view that autistics are to be accepted unconditionally, and being autistic is not shameful but a source of pride.
Yet at the same time, focusing solely on the autistic consciousness and identity precludes us from embracing the true diversity of the world out there. It glosses over our inadequacies and stops us from constantly striving to engage with the rest of the world. In other words, we stop improving ourselves to be able to reach out to the NeuroTypicals and instead demand that they accommodate our special needs. In this era of upheaval and strive, it creates yet another obstacle to unity and World Peace.
As a pragmatic person, I believe that ideals should take a back seat to reality. Most people probably can agree with me on the following:
1) It is an advantage to have the option/ability to integrate with mainstream society, such as finding a satisfying job, starting a family and achieving material success.
2) The inability to integrate with mainstream society makes us reliant on other people for financial support. However, there is no free lunch in this world. Our sponsor will usually limit our freedom and create much frustration.
3) The inability to integrate with mainstream society imposes demands on others to take care of us, often causing much pain and hardship. It is morally wrong to make life difficult for others if we have the ability to choose otherwise.
4) We will be judged based on our material successes and ability to function in mainstream society, regardless of how proud or ashamed we are of autism. We will be judged based on our body language, speech and behavior no matter if we like it or not.
5) Our society is dominated by NeuroTypicals. As a small minority, autistics are expected to make more effort to accommodate to the majority than vice-versa.
6) We are all better off working together to help each other, rather than arguing and sabotaging each other’s efforts.
7) Mutual respect is the minimum requirement for us to listen to each other and work together for our mutual benefit.
8) Being able to access both autistic and NeuroTypical consciousness at the same time is advantageous and enriching to our lives.
I believe that it will be most beneficial for autistics to take the initiative to reach out to the mainstream NeuroTypical society. Autism advocates can make their work more relevant by paying attention to the big picture of what is happening outside of the autism community and using our special gifts to help the rest of the world.
Autistics can also benefit greatly from by working with and healing the trauma and pain within themselves, as well as dealing with their biomedical issues, so that they have the energy and confidence to take charge of their own lives.
Until we empower ourselves to move beyond autism, the world will not be able to see our true potential.