When I express an opinion on autism, parents complain that I am telling them how to raise their children. It may be autism or my aspiration to practice law, but I like precision. I take issue with the idea that we tell others what to do with their offspring because it is patently false.
We never tell you what religion, or lack thereof, is right. We do not comment on your house rules for intoxicants. We never tell you how many minutes are appropriate for a preschooler’s first timeout. We are not interested in arguing over rewards and punishments for grades. Most neurodiversity people want your second grader’s homework, your seventh grader’s allowance, and your ninth grader’s dating to remain your problem. The only autistics who want to talk parenting are parents. The rest of us, like your coworkers, feel our eyes glazing over by the tenth baby picture.
What does interest us is the care of children like ourselves in areas of similarity. I will not try to dictate your school, diet, or extracurricular choices for a child who happens to be on the spectrum. That is your job. Unless you ask my opinion, it is not my place to voice one. Things change when autism is the central issue.
The cure approach to autism is ableism. It is the falsehood that a disabled life is inherently less good, less worthwhile. It is branding your child’s personality a disease in need of a remedy. If you had been raised from earliest awareness to believe that irremovable sections of your neural wiring, affecting your personality both by existing and shaping your experience, were pathological, could you like yourself? Could you respect yourself if you had been told you had a bad self? If I see someone mistreating a child, I try to stop it. My childhood left a soft spot in my heart for kids in trouble. Whether you know it or not, teaching your child to hate parts of the bedrock of their personalities is maltreatment.
My cohort of autistics is damaged because we lived that way. I know too many people who will carry the physical or psychological scars of systems intended to ‘fix’ us for a lifetime. We want to prevent that from happening to your child. It takes conscious effort to learn self-respect, to stop considering our thoughts, lives, and experiences diseased. Many of us have strained relationships with our families of origin. It is hard for some of us to trust anyone after suffering at the hands of adults who were supposed to protect and nurture us. By trying to change us, they unintentionally tormented us for years. We are still autistic.
The cure mentality harms us. It does not achieve the goal you already need to change. I am not telling you how to raise your child when I ask you to let it go. I am insisting that you stop hurting it.