I intend to be sincere with this letter, not sarcastic.
It’s not meant to be an attack piece, and it’s not meant to be a persuasive essay.
I don’t intend to change your mind about wanting a cure. That’s a personal belief that you must hold for a good reason.
But if being autistic causes suffering in your life, then you might believe that I’m contributing to that suffering by opposing a cure (and/or opposing treatments that “normalize” autistic people.)
I’m honestly and sincerely sorry. My aim in my life is to cause the least amount of harm possible in every choice that I make. The idea that I could actively be causing harm doesn’t sit well with me, and I want to make it right.
I have a series of promises I’d like to make here, publicly, so that you can all hold me accountable if I break any of them. I consider myself to be a person of my word, and I rarely ever make promises I don’t intend to keep… and usually don’t make promises anyway, because … well, demand avoidance.
But I can keep these.
First off, I promise that I will always try to approach the idea of a cure or treatment with compassion in mind. If someone feels they need to be cured, it’s logical to reason that they are hurting. I will try to keep this in mind to avoid minimizing any harm.
My second promise is that all of my advocacy work will have the end goal of the well-being of autistic people in mind. I promise that my intentions are always to better our lives as autistic people, not to make them worse.
I promise to support research into preventing seizures and gastrointestinal issues. These are medical issues, not a feature of neurodivergence. Treatment is definitely appropriate.
I promise that while I am, yes, opposed to a cure (including pseudoscientific “treatments”) and behavioural modification, they are actually the only treatments that I am against. I am opposed to the idea of early intervention, because I believe every person should be given the chance to thrive in their natural setting, but I know that autistic people have benefited from play therapy, occupational therapy, speech therapy, talk therapy, CBT, DBT, the SCERTS model, and more.
I promise that I will push for funding for all of those therapies for all autistic people. I do believe, as long as our society disadvantages autistic people, that governments should fund these as necessary health care for autistic people of all ages.
I promise that I will also push for the funding of alternative and augmentative communication devices and training of AAC methods. The ability to communicate authentically and effectively, as early as possible, is critical for all people.
I promise that I will also support funding for service dogs for autistic people. Service dogs can be an amazing help to autistic people, providing comfort, grounding, safety, and a variety of tasks, depending on the capabilities of the autist in question.
I’ve claimed that autistic people could topple the behavioural industry if our knowledge about autism got out to parents and to greater society. I promise I will try to meet that challenge personally. Whenever I can, I will try to provide well-written resources to anyone who approaches me in good faith looking for help or advice, or that I will try to find them someone who can provide that.
I promise to support the full inclusion of autistic people in educational settings and that my solution isn’t just “put all the students together and see how it goes.” Our full inclusion will require some redesign of the school environment and modification of the curriculum to include accommodations, so that everyone can learn successfully.
I promise to support the full inclusion of autistic people everywhere. I want an end to institutionalization and being committed to psychiatric hospitals against our wills.
I promise to push for supported decision-making over guardianship agreements. No matter our neurology or intellectual capacity, we have a right to make autonomous choices about our own lives and how we live them.
I promise to support efforts to help autistic people find (and keep) gainful, purposeful employment with fair, competitive wages. Many of us want jobs but are unable to keep them for reasons associated with our neurology. For as long as our society relies on work for survival, this is, of course, unacceptable.
I promise that I want a lot of the same things that you do. I want an end to discrimination and bullying against us for being different. I want autistic people to have an easier time finding romantic partners who accept us. I want each of us to have a say as we move away from “Autism Speaks” and towards “autistics speaking.”
I oppose a cure because I believe that all autistic people have inherent value as we are. But I don’t want suffering. I don’t want suffering at all.
Perhaps your ideal future is one in which you fit in because you are no longer different. You have every right to feel that way.
My ideal future is one in which I fit in because I am exactly the way I am: my communication is understood the way I intended it; my sensory needs are a default consideration; both my strengths and my weaknesses are acknowledged; and anything that does disable me can be either treated or accommodated for.
We deserve that. You deserve that!
I don’t know if there will ever be a cure. In the meantime, I hope that the promises I’ve made are the types of things that you’re in support of as well. I’m sure there is common ground to find between us somewhere.
You deserve to be acknowledged and accommodated right now.
You shouldn’t have to wait for a hypothetical cure to be welcomed, included, and treated with inherent worth.
- Game-Changing Research in the World of Communication Rights — May 19, 2020
- Our Movement Needs Mediators, Not Leaders — April 29, 2020
- Culture and Politics, or Why a Neurodiversity Paradigm is Left of Centre — April 25, 2020