Saturday, 10 June 2017

Impact - A Tough Talk About Language, Autism & Relentless Othering. With a huge Thank You.

The way we talk about autistic people matters.  
As we are now aware, some 66% of autistic people have considered suicide. 
Some 70% of autistic females are victims of sexual assault.
Some 80% of autistic people are victims of fraud.
Some 30% of autistic females are victims of rape.
Autistic people live on average 16 years fewer than other people because of the way we are treated in society.

I'm about to go to an important conference.  It's looking at autism and suicide.  Trying to understand why so many autistic people seriously consider this.  And why so many take their own lives, rather than attempt to carry on struggling.

The language we use matters.

I read a description of an event elsewhere.  It matters not whose event it was.  It was about disability. The description said that there were three speakers.   One had lived experienced of a disability.  Another also had lived experience of a disability. Both, adults.  And the third is a parent '..who has an extensive background about the impact of autism'. They have autistic children.


The impact of autism ...on the parent?

We don't get to speak for ourselves, at quite a number of events.  We are spoken about, by parents.  Specifically, spoken about only if we are children whose presence in the parent's life is described as an 'impact'.

Not a joy.
Not a discovery.
Not a journey of love and learning together.

An impact.

It wasn't the parent who chose that description. The description was chosen by a PR specialist for a Christian-faith-based group.  I suspect the parent was also chosen by people who assume that autistic individuals are all aged under 10.

I contacted them and explained.  So did others.  An apology was received.  They hadn't thought about it.  

That's the issue.  Quite a few people don't think.  Excellent exceptions apply, of course.

It's not one incident.  It's stuff like this every day of our lives.  Every single day.  Other disabled people mostly get to speak for themselves and are allowed to be adults.  I've observed this over many years.  In autism, we get spoken about, portrayed only as children, and described in scary language.  

What of the impact of the people who defraud autistic friends?
What of the impact of the building designers who put zero thought into autistic access for the two million of us?  With the impact on education, healthcare, employment, poverty?

What of the impact of being denied a voice?
What of the impact of those who assault and injure us?  Those who encourage others to fear and exclude us?

What of all those impacts?
Do we think it is huge surprise that so many consider suicide, after a lifetime of shaming and exclusion?

We are not an impact.  We are God's much loved people.  People giving and sharing so much love, so much friendship, so much creativity and peace.  Most of the two million of us in the UK are nothing like the myths at all.  We are people honouring the communication needs of others so very often, by attempting your scary eye attempting to use your words in your ways.  By going into your exhausting spaces to try to be friends with you.

It would be good to see us honoured too.
Honoured in being asked to speak. In being allowed to communicate autistically, without it being punished.
Honoured in being asked to lead.
Honoured in being described in words of love, not scariness.

I am so blessed with family, friends and colleagues who share love and friendship with me.  Who enable me to be me.  And, especially, those who have stood with me over the years....believed in me....helped me through each challenge I've faced.  It has been so tough at times.  It has enabled me, in turn, to keep fighting alongside many fine autistic advocates and specialists. Fighting for good support for autistic people.  For good support for parents and carers.  For good funding and good opportunities.  For research that respects autistic needs and lives.

Think about the way you use language, please.  Think about who you enable to speak.  Your choices save lives.

Thank you for listening.

And, for those family and friends, thank you for being there for me.   It means more than you will ever know. 
Is a link to the Samaritans in the UK, for those needing to talk to someone.