I have a little secret to share with you.
A little closer.
Okay, you ready?
There are people with autism among you. In fact, you may be standing next to a person with autism RIGHT NOW.
I’ve included a visual aide to assist you in the identification of someone with autism. Pay close attention so you know what to look for:
First, notice the eyebrows. See how they’re made of hair? Yeah. That. Also, there seems to be two eyes and a nose. That’s a major characteristic of people with autism. Finally, people with autism may smile. Or wear a baseball hat. Sometimes, they may do both things at once; that’s usually a dead giveaway that you’re in the presence of someone with this disorder.
Shhhhhhhhhhhh! Stop looking around, you’re making it obvious. Look at me.
Now, whatever you do, don’t make a sound. Don’t move a muscle. You don’t want to let on that you suspect a thing because everyone knows that people with autism are……………. ALSO PEOPLE.
I know. Shocking, isn’t it?
What’s even more shocking is that they’re everywhere. They go to the same grocery stores you do. They frequent the same parks and beaches. They attend the same worship services (not that it counts, because Jesus is too busy blessing you and your perfect family to care about some shmuck with autism flapping in the back pew).
Get this: they’re even allowed to go to school with your kids (I know, right?!) Your child may have even played on the same school playground equipment as someone with autism. Probably not at the same time though, because that would be too inclusive, so your offspring should be safe. But just in case, you may want to panic and call your local school district and demand “those people” be removed from the property immediately. Preferably with a police escort and an ambulance or two standing by.
I mean, United Airlines is doing it and it seems to be working, so why not give it a try? Seems that all you have to do to get rid of someone with autism, is just ask.
As you ponder excitedly who you’ll call first (Your pediatrician’s office? Maybe the local community swimming pool? Your daughter’s girl scout troop or the boy scouts? Oh God, what if someone in the troop is gay AND has autism? *Head explodes*) let me fill you in on something: Autism is not going away. It’s not a fad, it’s not bad parenting, and it’s not a life of glorious never-ending entitlements. It’s a neurological disorder you dummy, and it’s coming to a loved one near YOU. This is not a threat, nor is it a scare tactic. It’s just the truth. Autism is everywhere and as long as you’re everywhere too, you’re going to come across it, and, despite what you may think, probably live to tell about it.
Here’s the thing: autism families like mine, who have been elbow deep in discriminatory bullshit for the better part of the last decade, are pretty much over judgmental pricks like you. This is our society too; our community. These are our churches and synagogues. These are our hospitals and our stores. These are our schools and our parks. We belong here and we’re not going to let some ignorant a-holes tell us otherwise.
And here’s a thought: if we make you uncomfortable, maybe it’s your turn to feel unwelcome and discriminated against. Maybe it’s your turn to stay home, day after day, wondering how you’ll ever be able to take that family trip, or attend a loved ones celebration. Maybe it’s your turn to leave dinner half-way through because the stares from others are penetrating through your skull. Maybe it’s your turn to be denied the simple right to access society without being told you don’t belong. Yes. I think I like that idea. I say let’s run with it.
You know what the worst part of your ignorance and hatred is? Big jerks like you raising another generation of jerks, who will inherit the earth and look at my son with special needs as “less than.” I break out in hives every time I think about it. Perfectly wonderful children who would be better off being raised by a cardboard box are being poisoned by your ugly interpretation of the world. Where’s CPS when you need them? Oh, that’s right. They’re harassing your next door neighbors because their son has autism and you felt the need to report the family for what you deem to be terrible parenting.
I can’t fix you. It’s not that I’ve given up and that I won’t continue to try and minimize the assholery my son and others like him have to face on a daily basis. I will never stop advocating. But I can’t fix stupid, so instead of wasting my time on you, I’m just going to keep bringing my child with autism….everywhere. You know, exactly where he belongs. Those who are salvageable will get onboard and realize the universe is big enough for all us. I know it seems hard to believe, but so is our local Trader Joe’s.
So move over, or get out of the way.
Oh, and one more thing.
May you or someone you love never need a single accommodation or the compassionate understanding of a stranger.
Because there’s nothing worse than having to tell someone who’s already being crushed by the unforgiving weight of isolation and discrimination
“I told you so.”