To those who are living with or closely know someone on the spectrum, Autism Awareness month is no stranger. Family members, professionals and business alike often strive to make a venue more autism or sensory-friends. Others strive to raise awareness in our major media sources. For example, on Netflix, one can find the popular show, Atypical about a teenage boy named Sam who is just transitioning into an adult and going onto college. Others raise awareness through the work of puppets such as Julia who is a character on Sesame Street, who’s played by Stacey Gordon, a puppeteer who has a son with autism. On the other side of the coin, are self-advocates, who are autistic that believe in autism acceptance. From their perspective, we should do away autism awareness. They believe that awareness often gives people the wrong impression of us. Alongside, they often boycott Autism Speaks the organization believed in curing autism. Along with a strong loathing of the organization, they also hate the puzzle piece for the symbol’s negative history that autism is a disease. Rather, they use the infinity symbol to represent neurodiversity. They also do not wear blue but red, as a color of “Love.” Whatever the case maybe, I take a very different stance in all of this which entails taking middle-grounds.
Yes, while I am an autistic and a self-advocate, I have developed a very different mindset than a lot of my peers on the spectrum. I am more willing to take middle grounds. What that means is that I prefer to take elements from both sides. Why? Well, it’s simple, really. Foremost we can’t have autism acceptance without autism awareness. Perhaps the most important of all is that those on the spectrum need to have a level of self-awareness and understanding of themselves. Once they have learned how to become more self-aware, then can become to accept themselves. For example, there was a time in my life I hated being autistic because I grew up in a world with people looked at me like I was broken and therefore underestimated what I could or could not do. In contrast, I was strong enough to want a normal life. I wanted to hold down a job beyond custodial work because I knew something had to exist. I only learned how to accept myself in 2004, based upon joining a support group for adults on the spectrum. At that, a mechanical engineer and a pilot named Robert Morris who also carried a diagnosis ran the group. Contrary to another support group, which felt more like a daycare for adults, this group focused more on gifts, talents, and careers. Here, they spoke out against closed minded views related to autism. They further celebrated Temple Grandin before her movie came out. While this group helped me begin my journey in self-discovery but also in self-acceptance. Despite that, I am don’t want to get too far down the beaten track. Once a person learns these things about themselves, they can learn how to better serve in their community.
With the Red Instead versus Autism speaks, this is where I feel it’s appropriate for a self-advocate to take middle grounds. When I mean here is yes, standing up for what’s right should be number 1. For example, learning to educate or sometimes re-educate people in the community on what autism is and what it is not. Some people believe that autism is an anti-social personality disorder and that we are all sadistic monsters who go off for no reason. Following the Sandy Hook Shooting, which took place on December 14, 2012, I was watching a live stream from my computer which contained a chat session. During the stream, the leader talked about this shooting which I was thrilled with. Sadly though, another member of the chat room jumped into the conversation and stated ignorant stereotypes about it. While this makes my blood boil, she blurted out that Adam Lanza had Asperger’s Syndrome and all that all people with Asperger’s syndrome have a lack of empathy who go off for no reason. Little did she know that an adult in her early 30s was closely watching her comments and could call her out on in her ignorance. When I responded, she boasted about how she was in autism research and knew better because she listened to experts. “That’s doesn’t make you an expert,” I came back. In a similar hasty manner, people with little education on autism lean towards the disabilities associated with autism while forgetting that a person with autism can be still a person. Therefore, one on the spectrum can raise autism awareness for the sake of educational purposes while explaining the reason behind Lanza’s shootings and perhaps explaining where the disability lies.
Third and finally, I have taken middle grounds because I have elected to support Autism Speaks. One of the main reasons is because I see them working hard to become more autism-friendly. Though not perfect, something like this never takes overnight. For example, I have seen then create a special blog designed for adults on the spectrum. In fact, I submitted a few articles. One of which included getting involved in airport rehearsal tours. I have also seen them feature more stories by the voices of autistics themselves and become more and more diversified. Otherwise, most self-advocates want to reach out to as many parents, guardians and other people in the community who support autism speaks. Most of the time, these parents or guardians often lost as what I should do with their children as there are so many voices giving them confusing answers. I feel that they need to hear from the real experts and that’s us. Our life experiences is what will raise awareness and acceptance. Not only that we know best what types of services an individual needs and how expensive something can be. Again, that where a self-advocate can come in and get involved with their local autism speaks chapter. They can also start a team or sign up to raise money and walk while learning to keep track of how Autism Speaks spends their money. Last but not least, they may consider getting on boards and advisory councils part of Autism Speaks because that’s ours. Someone will hear voices.
Therefore, I would highly like to recommend that self-advocate learn how your differences side aside with people who support autism speaks and take middle grounds. As a result, I am not lighting it up blue to walking in red. Rather, I am combining the two colors together to make purple. My campaign logos are “Taking Middle Ground” and “Walk in Purple.” In fact, will walk on the 28th of April in the greater Atlanta area and wearing a T-shirt that not only promotes my campaign but also my blogging brand.