Epidemic, Awareness and Us, Autistics

“How about this: all advocacy groups and organizations that claim to be our allies, could join us, autistics and true supporters of the neurodiversity movement, to promote better, healthier lives for all autistics, working towards inclusion, access to all types of communication and, the main goal: ACCEPTANCE.”By now everyone knows about the new numbers on autism diagnosis. And we have already seen the media jumping in the alarmist train: IT IS AN EPIDEMIC!

My friend and I decided to look up some definitions for this word that has been used to classify me. This is what I found in one on line dictionary:

epidemic
noun
a widespread occurrence of an infectious disease in a community at a particular time: a flu epidemic.
a disease occurring in such a way.
a sudden, widespread occurrence of a particular undesirable phenomenon: an epidemic of violent crime.

Am I a carrier of a disease? An infectious one? Am I an undesirable phenomenon?
The answer is NO. But you would believe that autism is indeed infectious and contagious, and that we, autistics, are undesirable, if you are paying attention to the conversation happening without our input.

The media, and organizations that claim expertise in autism – but that never listen to autistics – sound the alarm of a “dreadful future, with the world full of

[people like me].”

Please, read the last paragraph again. It says that I am so “wrong”, that my life is such a burden, that I should not exist.

That is the awareness campaign. It promotes awareness of autism with the fear that more autistics will be born; it promotes the need to change or “fix” us because we cost too much to society. It denies us participation in this same society.

The conversation about autism awareness, which raises a lot of money through scary adds, is misguided and pushes us, autistics, to the sidelines.

How about this: all advocacy groups and organizations that claim to be our allies, could join us, autistics and true supporters of the neurodiversity movement, to promote better, healthier lives for all autistics, working towards inclusion, access to all types of communication and, the main goal: ACCEPTANCE.

Sadly, acceptance seems to be an uphill battle, a very heavy load at the moment. All the awareness talk, with all the negative views in the media, has made the conversation turn to the myth of the burdens of autism destroying families and overwhelming the society. The murders of autistic people (and other disabled people) are not viewed with shock, as a tragedy for the victim or even as a crime. Instead, murderers get all the sympathy, since everybody is so AWARE (scared) of autism.

But back to the epidemic theme: I believe there are many epidemics surrounding autism.
An epidemic of ignorance.
An epidemic of non-autistic voices speaking for us.
An epidemic of lack of respect for who we are.
An epidemic of lack of respect for our lives.

So, the next time people talk about the “devastating prognosis of this autism epidemic”, let’s remind them of the definition of “epidemic”, and that awareness as a propaganda to make us the enemies of all the dreams of families and society is indeed devastating. Devastating for us, autistics. Autism cannot be separated from us and we fear a future without acceptance.

About the Author:

Amy Sequenzia is a non-speaking Autistic, multiply disabled activist and writer. Amy writes about disability rights, civil rights and human rights. She also writes poetry. Amy has presented in several conferences in the US and abroad, and her work is featured in books about being Autistic and Disabled. Amy is deeply involved with the Neurodiversity Movement and has been outspoken about the rights and worthy of disabled people. Amy serves on the Board of Directors of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network (ASAN), and the Florida Alliance for Assistive Services and Technology (FAAST). http://nonspeakingautisticspeaking.blogspot.com and Autism Women’s Network. You can also follow Amy on Twitter at @AmySequenzia.

6 Comments

  1. Lily April 21, 2012 at 11:17 pm - Reply

    Amy your voice is heard! Keep advocating for change. We stand with you!

  2. Lauri_Swann_Hunt April 9, 2012 at 10:03 pm - Reply

    Exactly! Amy is a very powerful voice and great role model !

  3. Dulani Porter April 9, 2012 at 12:43 pm - Reply

    Couldn’t agree more. Ignorance begets ignorance and the only solution is to have more voices like Amy’s heard. Louder and more often.

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