To the parents of autistic children who’ve been bullied by #ActuallyAutistic, I want you to know that you’re not alone. They may be vocal, but they do not represent the majority of autistic adults. I see you and I get you.
I try to stay away from controversy as to avoid conflict. I also try to keep an open mind on autism-related issues. Y’all, I really try, but at times it’s hard to stay quiet. I’ve been harassed by autistic adults for years because of my views on autism.
These views—they’re not anything crazy. I believe that raising a severely autistic child is challenging. I believe parents should be allowed to feel and express any dark moments they experience without being harassed and shamed. I believe ABA therapy is a great tool for many autistic kids and that a few bad therapists don’t make the entire form of therapy abusive.
I know that these parents love their children with all their hearts despite the sadness they feel about the diagnosis. I believe grieving is healthy. Parents don’t grieve because they hate their children, they’re grieving the future they’d imagined for their child (and yes, also for themselves). They grieve the things most parents take for granted—the painfully normal things their child will likely never experience or accomplish. New goals have to be set for their child, often much more elementary and limited. They worry about this future and they’re haunted by the uncertainty of it. Will their child ever speak? Get dressed alone? Use the bathroom without help?
#ActuallyAutistic, as they call themselves, state that parents who share their hardships around raising their autistic child are martyrs looking for pity—that they’re weak, selfish, and uncaring parents. They call out ABA therapy as torturous conversion therapy. They also believe that severe autism, as such, doesn’t exist. They blame the parents for not understanding their children, making the bold, hurtful assumption that these parents don’t go to the ends of the earth trying to do just that. They refuse to believe that some autistics will simply never develop an effective way to communicate. #ActuallyAutistic fail to understand that they speak from a place of extreme relative privilege when they’re bullying parents online about this very issue.
I’m sick of them claiming that parents need to “listen to autistic adults”. What hypocrisy. I’m autistic, and they tell parents to not listen to me only because they don’t agree with me. There’s not one single autistic voice that speaks for all of autism. The spectrum is too broad, and autistic people are just that—people, with the same range of differences as any other group. It’s impossible for any person or group to “represent autism”. Yes, they are actually autistic, but they do not represent autism, most autistic adults, children with autism, nor nonverbal autistics either.
I want the parents who’ve been bullied by this community to know all this. There are many autistic adults, myself included, who would never make a parent feel bad for feeling sad, angry, or overwhelmed with their child’s diagnosis. So yes, listen to autistic adults, but don’t you ever forget that most of us don’t think you’re a martyr because you’re not a martyr. I know that on those hardest days, the degree to which you’re heartbroken about your child’s condition is equal to the deep love and compassion you feel for them. I get it. Many of us do, and we will never judge you. Your feelings don’t make you a martyr, they make you human—a beautiful, loving, vulnerable human.