3 Helpful Perspectives on Autism From Autistic Parents
Updated: May 11
As Autism Awareness Month comes to a close, I wanted to share a few things I've learned from Autistic Parents. Throughout the month, I read posts from two mothers, who are both autistic with an autistic child, and I've received their permission to share their writings here, along with other information I gathered.
Sorry, we can't all be neurotypical, Karen.
The puzzle piece symbol is strongly disliked by most of the autistic community. Autism is not a "puzzle" to be solved, and an autistic person isn't a "puzzle piece" that needs to be fit into society. More organizations that support autistic people have moved to an infinity symbol. Using a rainbow of colors in addition to the traditional blue, the new, more colorful logo signifies the diversity of perspectives and experiences with autism spectrum disorder and signals a commitment to inclusivity.
From R (The Autistic Helper) about her daughter:
Tonight, M told me that her favorite class was music. She told me she loved it because she could dance, and because musical instruments are the same in every language.
How beautiful is that?
What are the chances that my neurodivergent child, who is learning a second language and finds peer social situations stressful and confusing, would find peace in a class where communicating happens nonverbally? I’d say fairly high.
Please remember the innocence of a neurodivergent 5-year-old child who finds peace and power in expressing herself through song and body movement, when the “curing autism” "Speaks" begins to speak up during Autism Awareness/Acceptance month.
Remember, when you “cure” autism, you erase all of our existence; not just the parts that are inconvenient or annoying to you.
More thoughts on the puzzle piece from J:
The puzzle piece! Stop using it. It’s highly offensive and regarded as a hate symbol. It originally symbolized that we were puzzling or missing a piece. The original symbol even had a crying child inside it to signify the “tragedy” that autism was considered to be. We prefer the gold (Au) infinity sign to represent autism, or the rainbow infinity sign to represent neurodiversity.
R explains the history of ABA, Applied Behavior Analysis:
Ivar Lovaas was the inventor of gay conversion therapy. A little-known fact: He also invented a similar therapy, called Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA). This therapy is exclusively used to “treat” autistic children in many areas. You may lose access to other types of therapies with a diagnosis. ABA therapy teaches autistic children how to behave more like Neurotypical children, while teaching them to ignore their gut instincts.
Here is a direct quote from Lovaas, regarding autistic people “You see, you start pretty much from scratch when you work with an autistic child. You have a person in the physical sense—they have hair, a nose and a mouth—but they are not people in the psychological sense. One way to look at the job of helping autistic kids is to see it as a matter of constructing a person. You have the raw materials, but you have to build the person.” Autistic Adults who have received this type of therapy report the same types of depression and PTSD that result from gay conversion therapy.
It seems like no one knows this. A year ago, I didn’t. I didn’t even know what ABA was. All parents are trying their best and genuinely want what is best for their children. Doctors and therapists make you feel like there is a sensitive “intervention window” and like you are a horrible person for even considering allowing your children to embrace their autistic characteristics. Different is not wrong. Not all communication is verbal. Being taught to modify your behavior to appease others is essentially a form of grooming & leaves a person vulnerable to abuse. If you have autistic kids, please consider this information.
Autism is not a disease. It doesn’t need to be cured. It needs to be accepted and celebrated, as we do other differences. The human brain is complex, and Neurodiversity is beautiful. Stop trying to “fix” autistic people.
J on autism therapy:
ABA, a therapy commonly used to “treat” autism, is abuse. Yes, all ABA. It’s dog training. The creator of ABA, Ivar Lovaas, said that we aren’t people. We are people in the physical sense but not psychologically, and he believed we had to be “built”. ABA causes PTSD in autistic people. ABA is the big brother of gay conversion therapy. OT and Speech are the preferred methods of addressing the difficulties that may come with autism.
When I looked into Applied Behavior Analysis, I found many studies that showed the effectiveness of this treatment, even as recent as 2021. However, Bozena Zawisz, in Psychology Today (Sept. 30, 2022) did report the controversies surrounding ABA. From my reading, current thinking combines behavior modification techniques with alternative approaches. However, I can't ignore the experiences of autistic adults regarding attempts to be "conditioned." I've linked to recommended organizations that are run by autistic individuals at the end of this post.
Neurodivergent people, both children and adults, spend a great amount of energy trying to fit in to neurotypical society. This is prevalent enough to have a label: masking. Masking can lead to burn-out and also low self-esteem, for the autistic person.
What can help? ACCEPTANCE. That's what is needed. The freedom to exist as themselves without judgment or bullying. We need to be more open-minded about what is "acceptable" behavior and welcome everyone, regardless of abilities and attributes.
If you’re of the belief that autism is tragic and should be cured, or that autistic children should engage in therapy that prioritizes behavior compliance over embracing autonomy, I implore you to reconsider. Consider what the world would be missing, without individuals who see things differently.
Autistic individuals are productive members of society. Not all production can be measured in dollars and cents, nor should it be.
Always assume competence, regardless of an autistic person’s ability to communicate verbally or perform certain tasks. Autistic people are worthy of accommodation and love. Autistic lives matter.
Awareness to Pride: The Evolution of Autism Symbols from 1963 to Today (Amber Johnson)
The Autistic Helper (R's Facebook Page)
Does Applied Behavior Analysis (ABA) Cause Trauma?
Autistic Self Advocacy Network
Yellow Ladybugs (Australia)
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