So, there’s this “advocacy” group, called Autism Speaks. They are… weird.
See, here’s the thing. Lots of people are autistic. Some are pretty severely autistic. Some are only “mildly” autistic. Some of us (yes, I’m one of them) are actually pretty happy. Lemme qualify that. So far as I can tell, if I understand the word “happy” correctly, I’m happy. I can’t actually tell whether my experience of “happy” is what other people describe. But I find myself mostly feeling good, and thinking that the way things are for me is a pleasant way for things to be, which I don’t much want to change.
According to Autism Speaks, though, I’m the horrible Autistic Child that murdered the healthy, happy, child my parents really wanted.
Here’s the thing. I’m all for research into finding out what causes autism, or treatments that might make life easier for autistic people. But I get a bit concerned when a huge and very rich charity is devoting its effort to lying about what it’s like to live with autism.
Look. I can understand the desire for a eugenics program. A good friend of mine was the fourth consecutive child born with cystic fibrosis in his family, and he regularly and actively advocated for more to be done to prevent people from giving birth to kids with CF, until CF killed him. I can see a case for that, because, see, you don’t find people who are happy with CF, and you don’t find people with CF who are making great contributions to society that wouldn’t be possible without CF.
Autism’s not like that. Lots of us are happy. Furthermore, we’re useful. Think how nice it would be to have access to a few people here and there who were congenitally resistant to herd mentality and carefully-worded appeals to emotion. Or people who were instinctively well-tuned for problem solving. And by and large, as long as you’re willing to, say, use words to tell us what you want us to know, we’re apparently pretty tolerable to live with.
Fundamentally, Autism Speaks is a group focused, not on helping autistic people, but on eliminating them. No thanks. I don’t need to be eliminated. Maybe I’m not the “healthy” child my parents might have wanted, but we seemed to get along okay by and large, and I think on the whole my father preferred a seven-year-old who could understand calculus to a hypothetical seven-year-old who wanted to watch football games.
If you have any doubts as to whether they really speak for autistic people, consider that they went out of their way to create misleading impressions of what caring for an autistic child is like for their “Autism Every Day” movie. Trying to create false impressions is not something that most autistic people are going to endorse or support. The entire point of communicating is to share useful information so people can make better choices.
If I have to choose between no one speaking for me, and a woman with her autistic child in her lap saying that the only reason she didn’t kill herself and the autistic child is that she cared what happened to the healthy child… I’ll take “no one”, thanks.