Wednesday 12 April 2017

30 Days of Autism Acceptance: Day 12

Day 12: 

Talk about ableism.  Have you experienced discrimination?  Have you been the target of hate speech or slurs?  Have you been a victim of abuse or violence?  What’s the rudest thing someone has said to you about autism or you being autistic?

I'm thankful that I've not encountered anywhere near as much ableism or discrimination as some of my fellow autistics have, although I've been on the receiving end on two fronts: autistic and wheelchair user. Both make it harder to find a job, and 2 1/2 years after completing my MA I'm still unemployed (I've been deemed unfit for work by the DWP but I'm still looking, in case something that I can actually do comes up). A lot of the time people don't bother notifying you if you haven't got the job, which is ridiculous in this day and age - it really doesn't require much effort or cost to send out a standardised email to inform someone of their unsuccessful application! I've been told time and again that "there was someone else with more experience", which could be the case but after hearing it so often it does make you start wondering if they simply don't want to employ a wheelchair user or an autistic. At some point I'll do a post specifically about diagnosis disclosure when applying for jobs. I think at least some of the time it's not even conscious discrimination - people can see the word "autistic" and then subconsciously it puts them off because of expectations and prejudices.

On a few occasions I've been told I shouldn't have children, either because I'm in a wheelchair or because I'm autistic; I think the because-I'm-autistic one has come up more frequently. The reasons I've been given for the latter have generally been "But how will you bond with the baby?" "But how will you understand what the baby/child wants?" "How can you connect with them?" "How would you possibly empathise with them?" And so on. Plenty of autistics before more me have had children and done an excellent job! In some ways being autistic could be beneficial - I've seen so many parents give in after their child has pleaded, wheedled and thrown tantrums to get what they want, but because I'm so stubborn that unless I'm given a very good reason for changing my mind, I simply won't! And I won't care if they have a tantrum in public, either - that's not going to sway me!

There have been a few occasions when I've been talked down to and been assumed incompetent. People do sometimes change their attitudes and behaviour towards you when they find out you're autistic and it tends to be more patronising and condescending. It really irritates me that people do that - you were talking to me perfectly normally ten seconds ago! Some of the worst presumed incompetence has been from Autism Parents - I apparently can't possibly understand or know what I'm talking about because of my autism... AWPs are constantly silencing and shutting down autistics and it's not acceptable. They act as though they're superior because they're not retarded (I once got told that my autism meant I was retarded and thus couldn't possibly understand what I was saying).

I've never been the victim of violence but looking back I think I was abused by an ex-housemate who took advantage of me. The government was just changing the rules about housing benefit (it used to be that people under the age of 25 were only entitled to the shared-house rate, whereas 25 and over were assessed for a 1-bedroom place; in 2011 it was changed so that under-35s were only entitled to the shared-house rate) so I couldn't really afford to stay in my 1-bedroom place, and she was getting divorced. She's not allowed to drive for medical reasons and I have a Motability car and a disabled parking badge. I very much feel that I was used for my car and blue badge. If I wasn't able to take her somewhere when she demanded it (the rule was that she asked the night before at the very latest) she'd throw a strop like a toddler even though she knew the rule.

As for the rudest thing that's been said about autism/me being autistic? It's hard to tell. There's the comments about lack of intelligence, the stereotyping, the "but you don't look autistic", "but you can't be autistic because...", linking autism to school shootings in the US and the antivax brigade. If I think of anything else I'll edit this post to add it.

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