What's that, and why are we doing it?
Someone, I forget who was first, noticed that if you type "autistic people should" into your search box in Google, Bing, and particularly Facebook, the autocomplete suggestions based on previous searches are pretty horrifying. So the Autistic community decided to add some positive content for people to find.
I believe that Autistic people should be accepted in society without being looked down on or bullied for being different. Different does not necessarily mean dangerous. Who is harmed if I flap my hands when I'm happy or rock while waiting in line? Why does Western society place such a high value on eye contact when other cultures consider it disrespectful? Why do non-Autistics believe that if someone can't speak with their mouth, they must not be able to understand others or to think at all?
By acceptance, I don't mean that parents should refrain from teaching skills or manners, or that they should ignore medical issues, even though many parents and professionals claim this is what "Autistic Acceptance" means. Parents have responsibilities to help their children develop to the best of their potential, Autistic as well as non-Autistic. But in the public sphere, people need to stop judging Autistics just because they don't always fit the social norms.
After all, people who have demonstrated exceptional talent are allowed to break social norms. It's almost expected that geniuses and artists will be eccentric, so much so that it would be unusual for a fictional genius or artist to be unexceptional in their habits and demeanor. So if we can accept someone's differences because they're exceptionally talented, and enjoy the eccentricities of fictitious characters, why can't we accept someone's differences just because that's the way they are?
Some Autistics are also geniuses and artists, and I don't just mean historical figures who have been retro-diagnosed as a party game or an attempt to build positive associations for Autistics. Pretty much everyone knows about Dr. Temple Grandin, the Autistic who revolutionized animal handling in the meat industry; she grew up with self-confidence, found and made her opportunities to excel, and her quirks are accepted because she's recognized as an expert in her field. Let's extend this level of acceptance to all Autistics, not just those with special talents.
But the current lack of acceptance leads the majority of parents to assume the best they can do for their children is to make them less Autistic. Not better at coping with the world, not more confident in their abilities, but to be someone they are not. And that's no way to live.
So what does accepting Autistics look like?
Unfortunately, that looks pretty much the opposite of the prevailing ways to treat Autistics in our society, thanks to negative, fear-based "autism awareness" fundraising campaigns by organizations run by non-Autistics.
- Accept that Autistic people should be free from bullying, whether as children or as adults. (Teach your children not to bully anyone, for that matter.)
- Accept that Autistic people should be allowed to avoid eye contact without being considered disrespectful or dishonest.
- Accept that Autistic people should be invited to share their special interests instead of being expected to make small talk.
- Accept that Autistic people should be spoken to directly and honestly, rather than expecting them to pick up on body language or hints.
- Accept that Autistic people should be forgiven if they don't recognize you, particularly out of the context where they usually encounter you (school, work, etc.).
- Accept that Autistic people should not be asked personal questions about their bodily functions, sex life, etc.
- Accept that Autistic people should be presumed competent, whether they speak with their mouth, their hands, or a device.
- Accept that Autistic people should get academic supports and workplace accommodations.
- Accept that Autistic people should be permitted to mitigate noxious sensory input or leave a hostile environment.
- Accept that Autistics should have access to whatever supports or accommodations they require without argument that if they can do X they don't need help with Y.
- Accept that Autistic people should live, study, and play in the least restrictive environment.
- Accept that Autistic people should be treated as individuals, not stereotyped.
- Accept that Autistic people should be respected as human beings at any age or ability level.
- Accept that Autistic people should marry and have families if they want to and they find a partner who loves them.
- Accept that Autistic people should be anything they want to be.