It Hurts!

There is, among a growing number of autistic individuals, an ever-increasing protest over the way a particular autism organization conducts its business. These people have a point, and at an event for that organization, a group of protesters peaceably stood on the sidelines, handing out flyers and carrying signs.

They asked the thousands of event attendees, who were ‘walking’ in support of autism ‘awareness’ — “Would you like to hear from Autistic people?” The resounding reply to them was “No!” That’s what hurts — it’s an injury that never ends.

Hypocrisy is the essence of snobbery, but all snobbery is about the problem of belonging.
Alexander Theroux

Please don’t mind this concept, but if you’re out in support of a condition, then why don’t you want to know about it from those who have it? That’s not only hypocritical; it’s down-right stupid. Apparently, those who said “No!” are just out for the walk event, and not out there to actually believe in, or support those with the condition.

This raises a very critical point. The campaign that organization has run — to create awareness — is incredibly successful, with 99% of Americans aware of the condition. However, only 32.7% actually accept the people with the condition – oddly, about the same percentage of people directly or indirectly affected by it. Studies have said 1 in 3 Americans, or about 33% are affected by autism either by having the condition or as family members, neighbors or caregivers. Coincidence? No. It’s very simply that awareness is simply a fundraising campaign, while acceptance is embracing, and loving those with the condition, and tolerating its nature.

Autism ProtestersNot only were these protesters met with blatant negativity from those who claim to support them, but they were also scoffed at, yelled at, bullied and abused. To be at a walk ostensibly in support of autistic people — loved ones or strangers — and then to say, explicitly, to Autistic people’s faces, that no, you don’t want to hear from them, thank you, and walk away without so much as looking at them smacks of insincerity and false virtue. To the protesters, it is evidence they are second class citizens.

Let’s be clear here. If a person born in this country (or any other) has autism, they’re just as much a citizen of their country as you are of yours. No less. No more. They deserve the same respect, and have the same rights. If you’re out in support of their condition and don’t, or can’t respect them, don’t go out. Stay home and read a book about being a civilized human.

It is the lack of acceptance, and the dehumanizing of the autistic that leads to crimes against them. It is why laws fail them and why people — surprisingly intelligent people — think it’s perfectly acceptable to disrespect, harm or abuse the autistic.

The autistic pose no threat to you. They won’t invade your space; won’t steal your secretary or your spouse, nor will they beat you up, even if you’re very much in need of it. So if you believe in autism, believe in the people with it, and give them the courtesy, respect and dignity they deserve. These protesters have a message. Listen to it. Accept them; they’re citizens, too.

To deny people their human rights is to challenge their very humanity.
Nelson Mandela

It only seems reasonable to a half-way intelligent person that if someone’s protesting an organization, there’s a reason for it. You won’t find children or parents protesting the March of Dimes, nor will you see protesters at an event of the American Heart Association or the Alzheimer’s Association. So why that one organization… ask someone with autism. Listen to them. They have a sensible, rational, justifiable reason for their protestations, and deserve to be heard.

When you see protesters, rather than being a complete jerk, find out what their cause is, and keep an open mind. Anything less, and you’re no better than the people who bully them and make their lives hell way too often.

Happiness can only exist in acceptance.
George Orwell

The reason we called this organization “Autism Citizen” is to fight for the equality, rights and justice the autistic deserve. If you want to support people who claim to speak for autism, but don’t listen to the autistic, all we can say is we’re very sorry you feel that way, and hope we can enlighten you to your mistakes.

Before you donate to that organization, ask yourself these questions:
Where is my money going?
Will it directly help those with autism?
How much of my money actually stays in my community, or is it going elsewhere?
What percent of my money actually goes towards programs and services for adults with autism?
How many board members and executive staff in the organization have autism?

If you don’t like the answers, don’t give to that organization. Donate elsewhere. Meanwhile, don’t walk for a cause you can’t accept, nor claim to support people with whom you won’t even speak. Autism needs believers, not walkers.