Sunday, August 14, 2016

Differences Within the Autism Community

What is the autism community? Obviously it includes all people with autism. But it also includes, at least in some definitions, the families of people with autism.

How does the autism community feel about autism?

It depends on who you ask. There would be plenty of parents that hate autism. They see it as a terrible disability that robs families of hopes and dreams. Autism sometimes destroys marriages and makes life miserable. Let me make it clear, that is not the experience of all families with autism. But I will say that in our experience, we have had many "I hate autism!" days. Even in our most recent visit with our children, there were things that happened that reminded us of how much we can dislike autism.

But if you ask people with autism, especially those on the milder end of the spectrum, you might get a different answer. They might find any negative connotation to autism or even its description as a disability as being highly offensive. Autism is as part of a person's identity as much as one's ethnicity or gender, and there can be nothing negative about it. Any attempt to see autism as bad is seen as "ableism."

What do I think? I have a foot in both worlds. I am on the autism spectrum and I have two children with severe autism. I see autism as one of my strengths (see my book The Autistic Pastor) and yet there has been much grief that has gone with the autism of my children. I wish they didn't live in a group home. I wish they were not nonverbal. I wish they could get jobs and start families. There is much that is lost because of autism, at least from my perspective.

Are there answers to these differences? The only answer is respect. We need to respect those who have autism and value that part of who they are. But we also need to respect the pain that parents of children with autism go through.

No comments:

Post a Comment