What I Saw Today
Today, my mother said she wanted several pictures from the Autism Every Day video. Because she doesn't understand computers very well, I volunteered to get the pictures for her. And to do that, I had to watch large chunks of the video. And you know what I saw?
I saw a child kiss her mother, as her mother complains about her 'always wanting attention'. I saw that same child later being prompted to say 'I love you' - the mother would rather her say a meaningless prompted phrase than spontaneously show her love. I saw that same girl come up to her mother when she was talking about something upsetting and say 'what are you doing?' in a dismayed tone, then walk over to look out of the window as her mother talks about contemplating murder/suicide in preferance to a bad school placement (I've been in bad school placements, and they're not pleasant. But they're not worth dying over.) I saw a child being filmed having his diaper changed, and his mother commenting about how much she hopes he'll be toilet trained soon. I saw a kid trying to engage his mother in interactive stimming, and her saying 'no' and indicating he shouldn't stim. I saw parents pinning their only hopes on a slim chance of a cure, rather than learning to live with a different kind of child. I saw the stark dichotomy between kids being kids and parents talking tragedy.
And my reaction was the same as it was when my teachers treated me unfairly, when my classmates in a new school rejected me for no apparent reason, when people in various extracurricular programs expelled me or told my parents to take extra measures to 'control my behavior' in those programs. Why don't they like me?
Some people think this is just parents expressing their feelings, to raise awareness in order to help their children and others like them. That's not what this is. This is hate. Oh, sure, they 'love their children' - they don't really. Not in the ways that matter. You don't treat people you love like that. If they were talking about neurotypical kids like that, very few people would consider them loving parents.
Autistic people are supposed to 'lack empathy'. OK, if you guys have empathy and we don't, prove it. Watch that video, and imagine they're talking about you. Imagine your parents saying things like that about you, or watching someone else say those things about traits their kid shares with you. If you're part of another group that is discriminated against, imagine watching people say things like that about your group in the presence of children of that group. Imagine fathers talking about how they hope they can get a sex change operation that can make their daughter a boy (not because she is actually a boy inside, and has said so, but because they'd rather have a boy). Imagine white parents talking about thinking about doing a murder-suicide with their black child because the school system is segregated. Imagine straight parents talking despairingly about how their gay kid has had 'so much stolen from them', because, among other things, they'll never marry a girl and have kids with her.
Oh, you may think it's different, because autism is different. It isn't. Yes, we can't do many things neurotypicals can. But our worth, our happiness, does not hinge on that. It should not hinge on that. We deserve to have parents who love us, not their images of what we were supposed to be. We deserve to have parents who pay attention to our expressions of love for them, rather than demanding something artificial instead. We deserve to have parents who can talk about our futures without dread and tears, who can see a future where we remain ourselves and get treated with respect.
Luckily for me, I had that. But so many kids do not.
PS: I'm really upset right now, so I didn't phrase it nearly as diplomatically and carefully as I usually would. If you are a parent of an autistic kid and are offended by this, just think: your kid might someday write blogs like this. Try to make sure they can truthfully say the second-to-last sentence 'Luckily for me, I had that.' If you're thinking 'I just want my kid to be able to write like you can' and using that to justify all this, then remember - what's the point in teaching your child to communicate if you're not willing to listen?