“Fighting autism” is an exercise in futility

In some parent groups- maybe most parent groups but I try to avoid them if I can, despite being a parent of autistic children- you will see parents post about “fighting autism”. “I’m kicking autism’s butt”, they say. Except autism does not have a butt (which is a sentence I never expected to write).

The idea of fighting autism doesn’t work, because autism is not a tangible thing. It’s not a tumour that can be removed, it’s not an infection that can be treated with drugs, it’s not an injury that can be helped with physio. It’s a brain difference. Really there is no such thing as autism; there are only autistic people, and fighting autistic people is kind of a dick move. Don’t do that. We’re outnumbered.

Some parents talk about fighting autism in regards to behaviour. The problem with that is that autism isn’t behaviour. If an autistic person stims in the woods and no one is around to see, is it still autism? Behaviour is just the outward signs of autism. Even if we are not “acting autisticly”, either because we have been trained out of it or because we are asleep or something, we are still very much autistic. Don’t think that because you can’t see it it means that we can’t feel it. Autism is always there.

It’s pretty well-known amongst the Autistic community that masking autistic traits, whether we are trained to do so or whether we learnt as a method of survival, is detrimental to autistic people. Having to pretend to be someone else to be accepted is a really shitty thing for your self-esteem and mental health. Plenty of autistic people have PTSD from being forced to mask. This is what really happens when you “fight autism”. It ain’t pretty.

There is definitely a fight to be had, but it’s the system that needs tackling, not autistic people. I know it’s a mammoth task but imagine if all that misplaced effort that’s put into fighting autism was directed instead into changing society to make it a better place for autistic people. That would help all of us.

Stop fighting autism, start fighting for autistic people.

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