While perusing Facebook recently I “Liked” a few new autism groups. I have already left two of them.
The first one I left over a week ago because there was never anything of value posted. Actually there was never anything about autism posted at all. Oh, yes, the administrator posted pictures of cupcakes and sunny days – but very little about autism. Maybe looking at cupcakes and beautiful landscapes is what some parents need, but not me. That’s just not the kind of stuff I am looking for. You see, I’m on a quest to find as many people who champion the Autistic as I can. I’m searching for people who realize the worth and value these individuals posses. I’m searching for people who realize they hold the key to our understanding of the disorder. I’m searching for a group of people who realize they deserve to dominate the conversation about themselves. I’m searching for Autistics and their allies. I’m searching for a little bit more than rainbows and cupcakes.
The second group I exited today. I did this for a bit of a different reason. And I was actually kind of sad to go. This particular page does post things of value. Well, that’s going a bit far. But they do post things pertaining to autism – little memes about parenting and funny anecdotes. It was just one of those feel good parenting sites.
Feel good, that is, until today. When I was once again perusing my Facebook News Feed and stumbled upon something I found rather, well, shocking. To the average person it may not be that shocking, but to a person like me, a parent like me, it was.
I have to tell you a little bit more about my outlook on autism for you to understand where I am coming from and why this bothered me so, BEFORE I tell you what it was that bothered me. You see, recently I have been conversing with a group of Autistic Adults and they changed my whole perspective on the subject. The how’s and why’s are a story to be reserved for another post but suffice it to say that I now realize that there is no better time for the world to embrace autism and no better way for the world to do that than to be told the truth about it. There is no place in that conversation for scare tactics and misconceptions. If we are trying to teach the world that autism is not something to be afraid of, that autism is not something to make fun of or something to pity, that autism is not all of a person nor their only defining feature then we need to steer clear of these things. We need to choose our words precisely, carefully, and considerately.
And that is always in my mind. So, hence the shock when I saw this group happily posting a parent’s picture of their “new autism awareness bag”.
“Scared Yet?” What?!
I was shocked to see that another parent, that a whole lot of other parents (forty-five likes and nineteen shares worth of parents to be precise), would choose those very tactics to get their point across. Their point being that autism needs to be noticed. But not that way. Autistic people are feared enough by society. They do not need their parents, their caregivers, to be the ones allowing that fear to fester and grow; they do not need the people that should be furthering their cause acting contradictory to its best interest. Because that is the wrong message; fear is the wrong message.
You should never bring awareness and knowledge to a subject with scare tactics. Yes, maybe this approach will draw in the biggest audience but that crowd will only walk away remembering one thing – their fear. And they will allow that fear to dominate their thinking. It will close their open mind, causing it to be narrow and dark. And that fear will only continue to linger and grow until there is no chance of the real message making its way through. There is no room for a message of fear because this is a message of love – this needs to be awareness founded on acceptance first.
The real message is this: Autism is not something to be frightened of. Yes, it comes with hurdles and hardships but doesn’t life? Yes, it comes with troubles and sadness but doesn’t life? Yes, it comes differently but aren’t we all? Are not we all differently made? The message is a civil rights message. A message of love, acceptance, peace and equality.
That is why we need to bring awareness about in a different fashion. We need to let everyone know that autistic people are people too. That they deserve the same liberties and existences as we all do. That they deserve freely awarded acceptance and the same rights as everyone else. That they do not deserve to be looked at with disdain, or worse, fear.
The autism community will never receive all of those things if awareness is being bought with fear.