Autism advocacy is not just reserved for giving autism talks and taking part in autism awareness events. Autism Advocacy is standing up to the bullies we meet in the real world, including those parents who claim to be fighting for us but are treating us like trash.
In school, people bullied us by calling us nicknames, physically attacking our bodies and socially isolating us. In adult life, those bullies usually become much smarter and subtle – they will bully us without us even realising that we are being bullied. For instance, they may treat us like a child and wave their fingers to force us to make eye contact, while claiming to be helping us to improve our social skills.
If we do not stand up for ourselves, no one else is going to stand up for us. So we have to learn to recognise and respond gently but firmly to the bullying that we encounter in real life.
Below are some examples of questions that autistic advocates can ask when interacting with ignorant parents who engage in bullying behaviour:
Why is it acceptable to treat adult autistics with disrespect (e.g. talk down to them, apply children’s therapy techniques on them)? Why is it wrong for adult autistics to get upset when they are treated with disrespect? Won’t the parents also feel upset if they are treated the same way?
Is a therapy legitimate just because it was created with good intentions and is supposed to help others? Is a therapy acceptable just because it delivers measurable results (without considering the ethics and client’s emotions)? Is therapy appropriate just because the client is incapable of objecting to it? Is an expensive therapy justifiable because it has an unknown chance of successfully “removing” autism from the client?
Why is it that when there is a conflict, the autistic is automatically assumed to have caused the issue or be unable to understand the issue? Why can’t it be the parent who is causing the misunderstanding or trying to create problems? How do we know it is not the fault of other people?
Why is it acceptable to insist on correcting everything about autistics, such as wanting them to make eye contact at all time? Do we always need to make eye contact even when we are looking at the cinema screen or the traffic light to cross the road? Do we have to fix everything that an autistic adult does?
Why is it assumed that autistics cannot do anything much with their effort and need to depend on their parents to do everything for them? Is it true that autistics are condemned to be helpless and dependent on others?
Why must everything in an autistic’s life revolve around parents? Can’t autistics talk about who they are, without mentioning their parents, like the rest of us? Can’t autistics make their own life decisions without their parents’ consent, just like the rest of us?
Why do we assume that it is OK to ignore the autistic and speak directly to the parents? What is wrong with trying to speak and explain to the autistic first? What is wrong if an autistic feels upset when he/she was bypassed; won’t the rest of us feel like this too if it happened to us?
Why is it assumed that the autistic is always having emotional difficulties? Furthermore, why is assumed that any expression of negative emotions is the result of these issues? Why can’t it be that parents are the ones who need therapy? How much of the emotional difficulties are caused by the parents themselves?
Why is it assumed that emotionally healthy autistics are not really healthy but are just putting on a mask? Why is it assumed that autistics cannot be authentically emotionally healthy? Why is it assumed that autistics are troubled people who need professional psychiatric help?
Why is it assumed that autistics should always contribute to doing autism work for free just because they are autistic? Why is it assumed that autistics are only worthy of doing charity work and not providing professional services? Are our time and effort not worth paying anything at all?
Why is it assumed that autistics must support all autism initiatives, such as wearing blue for autism awareness, just because the intention is good? Can’t autistics have and express their own opinions? Why aren’t autistics involved as equal partners in the initiatives that purport to help them? If something is done with good intent, does that mean that we should all always support it unquestioningly?
Why is it assumed that autistics cannot help and support NeuroTypicals? Is it true that autistics can only receive but not give help and support? Is it true that autistic cannot become doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, autism therapists and early childhood educators?
Why do we even need this article? Isn’t it true that everyone celebrates inclusion and practices equality nowadays? Why do we still have to ask these questions of ignorant parents?