Editor’s note: When J David Hall first wrote this, he didn’t yet know he was autistic… but when we read this, autistics did. First featured on Medium, this article made waves. We are glad that David has found a home at The Aspergian and that we can extend the foundation of NeuroGuides as partners.
When the first few words he’d written met my vision, I winced. Ancient words of warning, “reaping the whirlwind,” danced into my mind. The writer was about to learn the hard way, just how intense, how heated the battle for neurodiversity has become.
On social media last week, I read something written by a neurotypical (non-autistic) parent who asked about the emotional toll of raising autistic children.
Keep in mind, this was posted by a person who has built a fairly substantial following of allistic (non-autistic) parents of autistic children, who have bonded to the writer through their joint angst at suffering through the trials of “special needs parenting.”
Curiously, the parent posted their question directly into the social media current of an overwhelmingly autistic adult audience. Unsurprisingly, the autistic adult community responded back with a fusillade of bitter, jarringly hard-edged comments. His wounded replies to them, his apparent shock and dismay was telling.
Look, I’m going to be perfectly blunt. A rebellion of autistic persons, a revolution of neurodivergent minds is now fully underway. If you don’t know this, if you haven’t been paying attention to the current cultural landscape, then it is quite possible the revolution has already passed you by.
This Neurodiversity Movement is the ultimate Civil Rights Movement– a rising tide of human persons who refuse to mask, to hide their unique minds anymore from a misunderstanding, ignorant, often repressive culture. Why the “ultimate” movement?
Consider this– if we fully accept other persons for thinking differently from us, for being different, then we cannot help but accept all the other differences. Skin color, ethnicity, standard or manual shift driver? All of it becomes a part of the human persons acceptance package.
Throughout our human history, autistic, neurodivergent persons have been a part of our unique, already-neurodiverse cultural landscape, but now they are standing up, holding each others’ hands, and lifting themselves up to be accepted, known. And in lifting each other up, they are lifting all disabled persons up, as brothers and sisters united in personhood.
If some people are naive enough to believe this is simply a small but vocal group of geeks, some “high functioning” autistic persons, who will soon fade away back into the fabric of our communities, then– my, won’t they be in for a surprise?
Today, autistic persons are uniting under a common banner of Neurodiversity, demanding to be recognized, accepted, known. And they are united in demanding that all persons, regardless of their intellectual capacities, or co-occurring medical conditions be included in this new cultural acceptance.
While autistic adults are the ones driving this movement forward, they will be the first ones to tell you- this is an all-inclusivity movement- encompassing everyone.
“A woman on the radio talked about revolution
when it’s already passed her by
Bob Dylan didn’t have this to sing about
you know it feels good to be alive
I was alive and I waited, waited
I was alive and I waited for this”
~ Jesus Jones, Right Here, Right Now
Intolerance of our fellow human beings has been running at full bore since the beginning of humanity, so what is it that makes this hour in history any different? What is it that makes this any kind of rebellion?
Well, it isn’t about any difference of appearance, ethnicity differences- it is about the very essence of they way we are- the unchangeable core of who we are in being- the way our unique minds operate.
So, what happened to those sweet little kids “with autism” who graced the charitable advertising campaigns for so long? Well, you see– those pitiful, hapless munchkins, those autistic little tots- grew up, and now they’ve now mutinied under the assumption that their best place in life is on the poor-little-ruined-waif poster of society.
From what autistic persons have clearly expressed to me– they are finished, done with being used to Light it Up Blue, puzzle pieces, all of it. Finis. Left in the dust.
In fact, and I’ll not mention the name of one such autism organization, but regardless of how hard they are now desperately trying to win the “tribe” of indigenous peoples over, they are finding the “reservation” they tried to put them on- emptying fast and the “natives on the warpath.”
Sorry folks, but you see- autistic persons are not about to simply forget you’ve tried to extinguish their very existence. Anyway, when you walk with the dinosaurs, you tend to get buried with the dinosaurs.
Perhaps social media has provided an instrument for this Neurodiversity movement, but the fuel for this rebellion is the yearning of neurodivergent peoples to have a place of dignity, societal recognition of being accepted as not less, but simply different, to borrow the words of an elder autistic pioneer.
While I’ve personally grown enormously in my own understanding, witnessed a major transformation in my own thinking about autism and neurodiversity, still I must admit I have only pity for parents of autistic children who use their children selfishly as points of personal pain in their lives.
What of the feelings of autistic persons themselves? These are real people– real, fully-human persons with laughter, and tears of their own.
How would you feel being used daily as a tissue for the anguished tears of your own parents? Can you imagine being held in place with the idea you are something less, someone who should have been something more than what you are?
The real adversary in this rebellion of minds? To come to terms with the understanding– it is not an us-versus-them struggle, but rather an us-versus-ourselves struggle. We cannot continue to go on believing autistic persons can rewire, change the way their minds operate.
We, neurotypical and neurodivergent, must forge a way forward to a place where we all come to accept our full and united humanity. In that place, in that moment, we will come to realize fully we are already neurodiverse as one people. Different and then– more.
Throughout our human history, they have been with us– and when we’ve not driven them to suicide, or locked them away, they’ve been some of our greatest scientists, artists, engineers, cooks, and more. Many of them are not particularly gifted with some “save the world” gifts. Maybe they’re a great Mom, Aunt or Uncle? Regardless, they’re different. Just like you are.
It is time for change. It’s time for a new acceptance of neurodivergent minds. It’s time to see all persons, regardless of the way their minds operate, as fully-human persons, each deserving dignity and graced with a sense of worth and belonging.
I’m deeply honored to be a neurotypical person [see editor’s note ?] who has been graced with being called a “true ally” of autistic persons.
And as long as I’m able, I will stand in the gap for them, but I do so knowing their story is not my own but is one shared by all of us- all persons, from every corner of the world who yearn to be known, loved, accepted.
It is time, it has begun.
Will you join the Rebellion of Hearts and Minds?
by J. David Hall, Life Guides for Autism | NeuroGuides (2018)