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Autism minus the stigma

 

by Adina Levy

Imagine a life where a core part of your identity is something most people misunderstand.

Imagine a life where a core part of your identity is something that many people are afraid of, even to say the word.

Imagine a life where a core part of your identity is something people try to take away from you.

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You might have guessed it – this core part of your identity I’m thinking of is being autistic

Now let’s flip it and reverse it…

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Imagine a life where a core part of your identity is something most people understand.

Imagine a life where a core part of your identity is something that many people are neutral, open, or welcoming about

Imagine a life where a core part of your identity is something people try to learn about – how this identity applies to you and how you relate to it.

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What I’m not saying: that autism is always wonderful, easy, delightful and fun to experience. There are hard parts. But shame, judgement and dismissiveness from the outside world is an unhelpful and unnecessary additional challenge for Autistic folks to experience.

What I’m trying to say: autism in and of itself is not a bad thing. The stigma often associated with autism (and other disabilities) is misguided. Autism is just… a fact about me. A complicated fact, that is connected to other parts of who I am, how I act, and how I perceive the world. It’s a part of my identity that I experience daily, and it connects me to other neurokin (folks with similar neurotypes to me). There’s nothing to be gained by attaching negative concepts to the entity of Autisticness. Things are hard enough, confusing enough, and also joyful enough without that.

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Please take a moment to pause and check in with the deepest, most honest parts of yourself. Your core knee-jerk beliefs. Ask yourself:

  • What deep biases do you hold about autism and where did they come from?
  • Do you assign stigma to the word and concept ‘Autistic’ and hold unfounded negative beliefs (even if you are Autistic yourself)?
  • Do you have gate-keeper-y beliefs about who is ‘Autistic enough’ to claim the identity and what that may mean for them?
  • What judgements do you hold about Autistic people with high support needs?
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Identify these thoughts and beliefs, and then work to consciously challenge those out-dated ones that are full of judgement, pity, ableism or stigma.

Please take time to learn from, and amplify diverse autistic perspectives. Many of my favourite Instagram creators from a range of backgrounds, communication abilities, races, support needs, perspectives and more are listed here: https://playlearnchat.com/resources/ (and I’d love to hear who else I should follow and add to my list!)

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If you’re an Allied Health Professional and you’re keen to learn more with me, I hope you’ll join me for a free webinar –Β Neurodiversity Affirming Practice Kickstart: 3 Actionable Tips to do Today.

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