A post by my son on what it feels like to identify as autistic when there’s so much negativity out there about autism

June 2nd, 2014

This piece was originally published on my son’s website. He is 22 years old and was diagnosed with autism when he was three.  He’s saying some very important things here and I hope people will listen. It is not okay to try to promote your organization or ideas by vilifying people who are on the spectrum. If you’re part of a group that is putting out the message “Do this thing we’re telling you to do, or your child might end up with autism,” you are actively harming many people who crave societal acceptance. (And odds are good your claims have no scientific validity.) But I’ll let my son speak for himself.

How it feels to be part of an identified “group” of people…
Autism is in the media more so than ten or fifteen years ago. With the 2000s tech revolution and social networks in the mainstream, it has been easier for organizations to promote Autism in recent years. Today, practically everyone knows the word, “Autism,” unlike ten or fifteen years ago when mostly parents and experts knew the term. It’s easy to say that Autism is a well-known and well-documented cause.
Despite the tech innovations, there have been several PR issues and controversies that have shed Autism in a bad light within the last five years. From the anti-vaccination movement, to organizations with false advertising, to celebrity moms (not naming names) saying “Autism is a curse from God.” And there are even organizations, including Autism Speaks, that do great fundraisers to support Autism research, but advertise Autism in an unflattering light. Many people I have known have even said things to me like “you don’t know how to participate in conversations,” “why are you even here?”, or “what you are saying makes no sense.” And that honestly worsens the issues of negativity between “normal society” and Autistics. Oh, and, the suspect of the Santa Barbara shootings from over a week ago was suspected to have “Asperger’s,” on the media, but many experts in Autism Research believe this was a misdiagnosis.
The point that I’m trying to convey in these posts is that while Autism can be considered a disability, many people on the Spectrum certainly don’t identify themselves as “cursed” or “disabled.” In fact, there are actors and actresses out there including Dan Aykroyd and Daryl Hannah, who are known to be on the Spectrum and have had very rewarding lives! Many other people with Autism I have met are brilliant in many areas, and some of them are certainly the best artists, programmers, or writers out there, who work probably harder than the average person!
Just like being gay or another race, which are examples of the types of groups constantly attacked, being Autistic is EXACTLY the same thing. I even have a brother who is gay, so I can certainly say that Autism is being “attacked” by some areas society just like gay marriage is. Some areas of society, on the other hand, have recognized the importance of gay marriage very well. From my experiences seeing the media and other organizations shed a dark light on Autism, only saying negative things about it, honestly really upsets me, and probably several other Autistics out there. If you think about it, many Autistics are being victims to bullying, peer pressure, and sexual abuse. Autistics notably have issues with social skills and communication, so it’s definitely hard for them to stand up for themselves. Even from what I have experienced in life, I am a pretty sensitive person and even when people tell me what I’m doing wrong in a social situation, I get uncomfortably self-conscious and feel worse. It can get worse to the point that I start throwing fits with a lot of profanity. This gets worse and worse to the point that I start losing touch with close friends. It makes me feel even worse about being on the Spectrum, to be brutally honest.
So I would just like to ask you all a kind favor and when people whom you know on the Autistic Spectrum are in doubt about their lives, please reach out to them and don’t ignore or make them feel worse about themselves. Even more so, please promise that none of you readers will victimize Autistics in harsh ways. Also, it would be great to recognize when you know the media is advertising Autism and what can “cure” it falsely and make sure to NOT buy what they are saying.
I know this is really a lot to take in, I really appreciate your kindness and patience reading this piece 🙂

  • Anonymous says:

    This is so valuable and well articulated. It should probably be required reading for everyone. Thank you for sharing your insights.

  • Kendall says:

    This is a fantastic article! I learned a lot. I have a cousin with autism. He’s the cutest guy in the world. Sometimes he plays a little too rough and doesn’t listen, but other times he is the gentlest, most thoughtful little boy ever. I don’t interact with him that much, but I can only imagine the patience and love that his saintly mom has for him. A mother with her own Autistic son in my church wrote this article. I invite you to read it–I hope it helps.

  • Anonymous says:

    Claire, the link doesn’t work anymore. I read it a while ago and wanted to share it with my brother who’s grandson is on the spectrum…. I loved the post.

  • Julie Checkoway says:

    Claire, can you send the link for the one he wrote about dating in college? I loved it, and want to send it to someone. Thanks! Julie

  • Christine says:

    Thank you for your insight. I’ll take it into account 🙂

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