At the end of March I wrote about the different viewpoints within the autism community. There is a saying, “If you’ve met one person with autism, then you have met one person with autism” and it describes how different each autistic person is. Conflict and anger can often result due these differences in all of the people involved in the autism community. I suspect many people see those differences as a weakness, with a desire to have a united front but after a great deal of thought, I see things differently. Perhaps those differences are a strength. I value this diversity and hearing different ideas because I can build on my understanding of autism. For many years I did not know that there are people who view as a different way of thinking instead of as a disability or disorder. For myself, who have always felt like an outsider, this viewpoint was helpful for me in my growth as a person.
I have enjoyed reading viewpoints from autistic adults who have grown up with the idea that they are autistic. A person that has always known they are autistic has a unique perspective compared to someone like myself who did not realize this until I was much older. There appears to be a higher level of confidence and a willingness to question old ideas, such as providing support for autistic people instead of curing them of autism. Or the idea that behaviors such as stimming should be considered more acceptable in public instead of shaming autistic people into not exhibiting those behaviors. There are some ideas I don’t fully agree with, such as extreme views about parents but after reading stories of bullying and abuse of autistic people when growing up, I have a better grasp of why these young people don’t like or trust parents of autistic children. I recognize and honor these experiences and I would like to find ways to help families.
It can be frustrating in trying to deal with all of these different opinions and the angry discussions that can result. Yet, in my opinion, I think these differences are great strengths because people are trying to change things for the better. I feel I have expanded my thinking. Most importantly, I have changed how I view myself. I don’t agree with all of the ideas but I do my best to remain open to new thoughts. Sometimes just being open to others and listening to them can help to build bridges.
Pictures by J.T. Harpster