I have been working through a course on Autism training for EAs in an effort to collect a few, final credits and learn more about Autism and ways to support and help Jake. As it is winding down, we were asked to write about our perspectives on autism and if they have changed. Mine really hasn’t, but I enjoyed and appreciated the opportunity to write about what I feel so passionately about. It is World Autism Awareness Day and it is Autism Acceptance Month, so I thought I would share it here.
My perspective on autism is shaded deeply due to my deep love for my son who is autistic.
I have come to have a deeper understanding of how difficult it is to negotiate the myriad of students with ASD and the other students with special needs and it has increased my appreciation of the teachers and EAs who work with my son.
Things that have not changed for me have become more clear. I understand that my role in my son’s life is to be his advocate, support, safe place, and cheerleader. I understand that the position I have as a teacher grants me a very special opportunity to teach inclusion, compassion, and acceptance. I will be a person who treats disabled people with dignity. I will teach my students that they are valued, valuable, and worthy of dignity. I will model how I hope the world will be for people with disabilities and autism. I will talk about ableism and how we think and view those with different needs. I will talk about the social model of disability and ways we can be more accommodating.
I have come to a deeper appreciation of how many scientists, psychologists, and experts in the field of autism have been wrong. Wrong assumptions and wrong science have left deep wounds in the Autistic community. Vaccines, lack of empathy, inability to learn, refrigerator mothers, parenting mistakes, are just the tip of the iceberg. Treatment in the past has included electroshocking children, removing them from loving families, and using food and hunger to force assimilation. It’s no wonder that getting an autism spectrum diagnosis so often leaves parents terrified and in tears.
I will talk about the negative stigmas that follow autism and why they need to be left behind. I will talk about fear and presuming competence even when people do not communicate traditionally. I will model patience and explain how behaviour is communication. I will advocate for employment opportunities for adults and youth with ASD and ways to include adults with autism in our schools. I will listen to the Autistic community, carefully and attentively, so that I can be able to stand with them. I will encourage my son to embrace who he is and to learn ways to be successful without pressuring him to pass as neurotypical.
I need to be an advocate for neurodiversity, and the more I understand about it, the more confident I become. I need to listen in order to participate in discussions meaningfully. I need to be a support to other parents and educators as they learn and discover how many of our previous understandings about autism were wrong.
My perspective on autism is that it is human and it is beautiful. It is hard, and it can be painful. However, it can also be joyful, passionate, compassionate, and smart. It is incredibly valuable.