[Trigger warning for mentions of abuse.]
This child was one of many diagnosed with autism. He had (and still has) a real passion for animals, and likes to read all about them.
Do you want to know what this child needed?
Acceptance, not awareness. Compassion, not a cure.
He didn’t need therapy to make him act more like his peers, he needed peers who were taught not to be bullies about those who were different.
He needed teachers who understood that there were different ways of learning, and that needing extra tools isn’t being lazy.
He needed a school system that wasn’t so underfunded they couldn’t afford to offer him help in the classroom.
He needed doctors who could explain to his parents what autism meant, and what kind of affects it could have, not saying he was “high functioning” so they didn’t need to worry.
He didn’t need functioning labels.
He needed his therapists and counselors to understand the ties between autism and abuse, and help him understand that some of the things going on at home were not okay, and that being afraid of family members wasn’t normal.
He needed the resources to understand and be warned about people who might be interested in “fixing” him-when there wasn’t a fix, and these people might do more harm than good, and they should be avoided.
He needed to be told that it was okay for him to exist-that his mind was different, but not broken. That he was still a person.
He needed to see reflections of himself in media and in stories, and not just inspirational stories-stories of everyday people, stories that showed he was just as much as a person as everyone else.
He needed people to accept him as a person. Autism and all. Because his autism wasn’t just a little bit extra, it had effects on his life.
He needed an end to the idea that his disability was something to be shunted aside, and acceptance for all the parts of him, so he could grow.
I know because that kid was me.
Growing up wasn’t easy, it was damn hard.
So please, instead of seeking to make people aware of autism, seek acceptance for autistic people. People are ware of us already. The proof is in the words and actions they use. It’s time they start accepting us as people.