My friend Steve Summers wrote this a few days ago. I asked Steve if I could repost his words here and he gave me his permission.
“Today I feel tired. —
Tired of being ignored.
Tired of being excluded.
Tired of being treated like an outcast.
Tired of being treated like a misfit.
Tired of feeling like others look down on me for being different.
Tired of being expected to try and act ‘normal’ to have a ‘normal’ life. — I am not ‘normal.’ I am Autistic.
Tired of people who think that just trying harder will make Autistic people ‘more normal.’ — Would you tell a blind person to try harder to see? Would you tell a paraplegic to try harder to walk? Would you tell a colorblind person to try harder to see the colors that they can’t see?
Tired of people who don’t understand Autism and who don’t make any effort to learn about Autism so that they can cure their own ignorance.
Tired of people who refuse to accept Autistic people just as they are.
Tired of people who presume incompetence.
Tired of neuro-bigotry.
Tired of the silence of others. Silence is *not* support.
Want to help us? —
Listen to Autistic people.
Make an effort to learn about Autism.
Educate yourself about what we go through each and every day.
Learn about how negative attitudes make us feel.
Practice Autism Acceptance.
Accept that we are different, not less.
Accept that we are different, but *not* defective. Don’t try to make us into a poor copy of your idea of ‘normal.’
Accept that we are okay to be ourselves — just as we are.
Accept that we are humans with feelings just like everyone else.
Accept that Autistic rights are human rights.
Presume our competence.
Don’t avoid us, include us.
Most of us have social anxiety. Please be kind and reassuring to us.
Please reach out to us. We won’t often make the first move after suffering from a lifetime of rejection, exclusion, and being bullied.
Please practice inclusion.
I am Autistic and I want to be valued and accepted for simply being me. ~ Steve Summers”
Steve is my friend. I am so glad I know him. I value our friendship. I enjoy our conversations.
Yesterday I wrote about acceptance, specifically acceptance of one’s Autistic child by a parent. Parents who do not accept their “child’s autism” often feel criticized and bristle at the perceived implication that they do not “love” their child, “correctly”, “in the right way” or “enough”. I know how completely uninterested I was in the idea of acceptance when I was engaged in an all out battle with Emma’s autism, intent on extricating her from its gnarled grasp. (This last sentence was very much in keeping with how I thought of autism at the time.) What I didn’t consider, what I didn’t know to consider, was Steve and every single person who is autistic who feels the way Steve does.
My inability to accept my daughter’s autism impacts her. Just as I cannot extricate the Autistic parts of her, I cannot pluck out the “autism” from how she sees herself. My non-acceptance, as well intended, as well-meaning as it was, was still felt by her as a criticism of her. But I didn’t know that at the time.
I think we, human beings, forget how pervasive and destructive our ideas about others are. If we are in the majority, our influence, the reach of our opinions are even more destructive. We say, oh but I love her, I just hate the way she walks, talks, the sound of her voice, the color of her skin, eyes, hair. I love her, but I hate the way her mind works, how long it takes her to get dressed, the way she eats… No really, I DO love her. And we do. We feel tremendous love. I loved my daughter all those years I was fighting her autism. I did. I absolutely did. I fought her autism BECAUSE I loved her so much. But then I met people like Steve and Julia and E. and Kassiane and Bridget and Savannah and Laura N. and Sam and Amy and Gareeth and I read what it was like to be brought up by parents who didn’t accept their “autism” and how it felt. And I began to understand. I was able to hear what they were saying and I began to see the connection.
Thank you Steve for allowing me to print your words here. Thank you for writing this. Thank you for helping me parent my daughter differently, so that in ten, fifteen, twenty years from now maybe, just maybe, she will not feel quite so tired.
Emma – 2004