Thursday 26 April 2018

Autism Acceptance Month 2018 Day 26: Y is for Youth

BSL: youth

Y is for Youth

Thanks to Bob, Kyly and Amanda for this word (or a variation of it)!

Young autistic people are the future of the autistic community and the world's relationship to autism so autism acceptance is essential for this. This is one of the big reasons we activists and advocates do what we do - obviously to make the world better, more accessible and more accepting for us but also for future generations. We have struggled and continue to struggle so much, but we don't want to and neither should other autistics. It can be an extremely difficult task, negotiating your way through a world you don't understand, that overwhelms and doesn't accept you, that marks you out as different and thus "bad". Nobody should have to suffer that. We strive to make the world better for young autistics and those who have yet to enter the world, and try to make it accepting for and of them.

In some ways, the world is better for young autistic people than it was when my and older generations were their age. As I mentioned in K is for Knowledge, much more is known and understood about autism than when we were children, which means more children are getting identified as autistic at a younger age, and if appropriate supports and services are made available, they should have a better time. Early identification, with the right guidance and accurate information, can enable someone to understand themselves and their relationship with the world much younger and thus be more confident in who they are. Not being diagnosed can be harmful, as I discovered (the hard way).

Another aspect of autism acceptance comes from NT peers. If NT children (and adults, but I'm specifically talking about youth today) are encouraged in accepting autism as a natural part of humanity, and not allowed or encouraged to think or behave cruelly about autistics - so any bullying is nipped in the bud with no tolerance of it - autistics will be much more included and accepted in society. And instilling that when people are young children is essential for a better, accepting society. We need to promote acceptance in our young people, NT and autistic, for a better world.

It physically hurts to see the plethora of posts on Facebook, forums, blogs and so on about a young autistic person struggling because they know they're different (and other children have picked up on this and make things difficult for them because of it) but not always knowing why, or they/their parents struggling to get a formal diagnosis or even an assessment because they don't fit old stereotypes.

Then there are other autistic young people who do have a diagnosis who face constant bullying, who have been made to feel lesser, defective, broken, because of their neurology. Who are known to be autistic and have that used against them. This is NOT COOL.

And both of these scenarios are awful because it is one of the big reasons for why so many autistics have significant and pervasive mental-health problems. I was one of those. I was one of those undiagnosed autistic teenagers that felt lesser, strange, broken. I was one of those undiagnosed autistic teenagers hiding in corners, severely depressed and highly anxious, cutting her arms up late at night because she didn't understand herself, how her brain worked, why she struggled or why others targeted her. And I see this story and variations on it play out countless times.

Because autism acceptance is starting to grow and expand, I have a great deal of hope for the future, for the next generations of autistics. There is a portion of the autism community that works on awareness over acceptance, fear, rejection of autism, imposition of NT norms and a degree of self-martyrdom by family members of autistics, and this is dangerous for these autistic youths, but people are starting to fight back more and more against this harmful ideology. This is why we must strive for acceptance.

With autism acceptance I see young people embracing their identity as Autistic people, confident in who they are and how they perceive the world. They are not ashamed of their neurology. I want to see that more and more. I want the future to consist of everyone accepting neurodiversity, of everyone being informed and knowledgeable, of everyone knowing and understanding the importance of making accommodations for us and being happy and willing to do so, and not even needing to be asked. I see it most commonly (although not exclusively) with children whose parents are autistic. The son of one of my friends (both autistic) recently went to school on World Book Day dressed as "Autistic" because they accept and embrace his neurology. We are working for a world where this is the norm, where we are accepted, where all autistic young people can feel as confident and comfortable in their Autistic identities as this young man. Acceptance means our young people being Autistic Positive and their NT peers accepting and including them for who they are.

I dream of a future where being autistic is not a one-way ticket to years of bullying and long-term menttal health difficulties, of a future where autistic youths can grow up confident in and unashamed of their neurology and identity, embracing it, a future where everyone accepts them for who they are and accommodates them without batting an eyelid. I dream of a future where they are Autistic Positive.

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