The challenges we face
Social challenges are common in autistic people but who do we look to when addressing them?
Many autistic people would follow the social model of disability and say that the environment that we create is the challenge.
An environment that does not accept our communication styles and forces us into a box of their preferences that suffocates our potential to thrive.
Other autistic people and those connected to autistic people would follow the medical model of disability and say that autism itself is the challenge. A non-verbal five-year-old that does not play in the same way as other children or an autistic man that is desperate to date are reasons enough to want a change for well-intentioned benefits.
But as mentioned in Deskilling With Love, the benefits we may seek as outsiders to the autistic individual do not match what the actual autistic individual or the community at large desire.
So what happens when an autistic person, with mental capacity, chooses a therapy that the rest of the autistic community do not agree with?
Unfortunately, as I have seen, it opens up division within the community.
The study of a new experimental drug called Balovaptan is being guided by lead researcher Dr Evdokia Anagnostou at Toronto’s Holland-Bloorview Kids Rehabilitation Hospital who says “The idea would be, people who have difficulty with everyday social functions, may have one more potential option for thinking of interventions, if they choose to use them.”
I have said in my own poem ‘Masking:’
‘Machine gun mentality, autopilot. It’s like my true form is private. But I will make it public. Won’t suffer from injustice. I am autistic and I love it. But that doesn’t mean that we don’t have problems. With environments and attitudes but there are other options. Rather than curing what isn’t an infection. Autism is a spectrum. The answer is to listen, not division or indifference but acceptance.’
I accept that making social connections with people can be extremely isolating and makes us feel ‘less than.’ But I hate to think that autistic people are losing their sense of authentic autistic identity and I think that autistic people aren’t always exposed to the narrative that they ARE enough and that they CAN thrive if society adapts to THEM a little more and this lack of exposure to positive, uplifting and overall supportive messaging is what can lead many autistic people to self-hate.
I don’t know if there is an answer to the division but I certainly want to continue having conversations about the reality and fiction of what makes an autistic person thrive.
Do we overcome or understand? I believe that we as a society need to set a balance with understanding autistic individuals and the history of our community at its core but also overcoming obstacles which may be rooted in well-intentioned thoughts but grow into self-hating stigmas that are not only damaging autistic people but killing autistic people and justifying their deaths.
Fear is a four-lettered word. But so is love.