April 29th, 2016
by Patricia C. Baxter
As an autistic woman, I encounter obstacles and challenges in my life through implicit social structures and explicit discrimination against autistic, and neuroatypical, people. As a result of these experiences I often wonder what it would be like to live in a world where these boundaries are not present; where, instead, autistic people are treated with respect and dignity. I am aware that my thoughts and hopes might not be the same as everyone else on the spectrum, nor do I claim the piece as such, as we are all individuals with our own experiences and goals. Instead, this piece is a personal reflection based on my own life experiences coupled with what other autistic people, who I have encountered through various immediate forms of communication, have reflected on their lives and struggles.
My hope for the future is that autistic children do not start their lives confused or alone. These children will learn who they are in a safe and comfortable environment. The epiphany of learning they are autistic is an experience of joy, where a sense of community is established. Their peers are more accepting of who they are, and no allistic parents will lament that learning their child’s diagnosis is akin to feeling like their child has “died.”
Children’s guardians give their kids all of the love they deserve. They treat them like children, and empower them in their interests and passions. When violence is committed towards an autistic child, the sympathy will go towards the child as opposed to their abusers.
Misconceptions surrounding autism and vaccinations are abolished. If such misconceptions are brought forward, people will acknowledge that these ideas are rooted in ableism. All children of the community will go through their lives without the potential fear of contracting a life-threatening disease.
Teachers will be more willing to work with autistic students, and acknowledge the additional guidance they may require. They will not act belligerent towards the repeated requests of students and parents to have their accommodations met. They will make autistic students feel welcome in the classroom, as opposed to a nuisance that is taking up an instructor’s time.
Autistic people will feel like we have a voice, and that our opinions and thoughts are valid. We will address those who wish to bring us down, and our peers will support us in our times of need.
We will help better ourselves to be the best we can be in our chosen path. Our interests, the things that give us the most joy, will not be mocked, but validated.
Employers will actively work to ensure that autistic adults seeking employment are not underemployed or unemployed. Autistic adults will work in environments that best suit them, rather than settle for careers and abusive employers that cause them more harm than good.
Furthermore, the issue of employment and autism will be discussed with more nuance. Autistic people who cannot work will not be viewed as unproductive or useless. A person’s life should not be determined by their ability to ‘contribute’ to society; all persons must be treated with dignity and respect.
The media will stop portraying the same harmful messages of autistic people, and instead create images that reflect us in all our fully-formed realities and complexities.
The myth of the “male brain” is abolished, and autistic people of all genders and sexualities will have their identities respected.
Medical and psychological fields will no longer treat us as fascinating curiosities, needing to be “cured” or “fixed.” We are the best authority on what it means to be an autistic person, and our expertise is acknowledged as such.
Conferences will not accept parents’ ableist narratives speaking on the supposed “struggles” they face, but rather allow autistic people to speak for themselves.
In short, the future should be better, kinder, understanding, and empathetic, to the lives of autistic people. Our lives should not be seen, or treated, as less, nor should our voices be silenced for allistic narratives. We will make our own future, and it will be better than the one that has been decided for us.
Patricia C. Baxter is a recent graduate from Carleton University in Women’s and Gender Studies. She presented her master’s research on sexism in geek culture, “The Position of the ‘Fake Geek Girl’ within Contemporary Geekdom,” at the 5th Annual Popular Culture Association of Canada Conference. She is most interested in conducting research centered on identity, gender, media representations, subcultures, and the various combinations of these topics. As an autistic woman, she feels it is important for autistic people to have a voice for themselves, and not to have others speak for them. She is currently working on independent writing and research projects.
Autism awareness rainbow infinity symbol via Tumblr.