“Why do they hate us?”

16 Sep

These were the heartbreaking words of a little boy I know diagnosed on the autism spectrum to his mother after hearing a news report on the “war on autism.”

Our words matter, although many of us neglect to believe this when it comes to autism. Many people quote Temple Grandin saying, “Different, not less,” but then openly declare war on what it is that makes these individuals different. And for those individuals like my friend’s son, who like being different, who prefer their view of the world through the prism of autism, people who engage in use of the words “war,” “cure,” “fix,” are demeaning them. And for the very literal among the individuals with autism, they see themselves as the enemies of those who use such language.

We find ourselves at a crossroads in the autism community with some choosing to fight for acceptance for their neurologically different children and others choosing to fight the autism itself. I, myself, am in the latter group. I do not hate autism. For me, and I only speak for myself, if I were to hate autism, I would hate my child. And yes, there is a difference, in me saying I hate cancer if my child had cancer and I hate autism. Cancer is a disease. Autism is not. Cancer destroys cells and kills you. Autism routes neuropathways differently and does not cause death. (Yes, there can be related conditions, such as epilepsy, that may cause death, however, these conditions are also present in individuals not on the spectrum.) To tell me that my child needs to be cured, needs to be something other than what she is, is to say to me, she is somehow less than whole. She is somehow inferior and needs to be brought up to the standards of the rest of the world. That is simply not true. Why would I want to eradicate the part of my daughter that loves surfing and skating? That allows her to find pleasure where the rest of us see nothing? This is why I cannot engage in the language of “hate,” “war,” and do not yell “F-U Autism.” For me, those words denigrate the dignity of my daughter and the beauty of what makes her who she is. Keep in mind, my child is considered low-functioning on the spectrum. She is non-verbal, not potty trained and has severe sensory processing disorder. And while yes, I do seek out speech and occupational therapy, it is not to destroy autism, it is to help my daughter, through her autism, find meaningful ways to cope with us sorely lacking neurotypicals who feel we have to label everything and hate and fear what is unknown and not well understood.

So, please, before you engage in discussion of autism, choose your words carefully. As your child may be the next one to ask, “why do they hate us?”

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One Response to ““Why do they hate us?””

  1. Carrie Rogers September 16, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    Agree. There is no need to “fix” something that is not broken.

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