I was once asked, not real long ago, why I just “don’t tell” anyone that I have a form of autism. Why am I so gung ho about the autistic community and advocacy? Why is it so important that people are educated about autism?
Well, personally, I have tried this. It doesn’t work because there’s always something that happens that someone wants explained. Like when I flinch because of a movement I caught out of the corner of my eye and someone gets all offended over it. Yes, this has actually happened. I can’t help how my nerves react. They are turned up 10x what you would call “normal”. It gives me a startle reaction that’s completely involuntary. Much like what happens when the doctor tests the reflexes in your knee with that little rubber hammer. So there’s a choice here, explain and try to educate you, or just put up with ignorant judgments over things I can’t control. And this is just a minor example of the stigma that is all over the autistic community and others with disorders/disabilities. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg in answering that “why” question.
Just how ignorant can stigma get? Let me share with you a conversation I had with a woman who claimed to have a teaching degree. This conversation was held online on face book and you can find it at the Nancy Grace fan page. These are the things this woman said in this discussion:
" retarded and autistic children do not belong in school with the rest of our children"
" I believe the government should mandate parents with special children that once they have 1 mentally challenged child they are never allowed to have more kids."
"Well my son has to have the same lunch period with the SPECIAL kids. That xxxes me off that he has to look at that “xxx” while he’s eating"
The x’s are for her colorful language. I’m sure you can fill in the blanks. Ignorance spreads ignorance and if we do nothing, innocent people get hurt. Stigma, discrimination, prejudice and what ever else you want to call it, hurts. It can destroy lives. It’s supposed to be illegal for employers to discriminate on disabilities, but it still happens. When teachers, employers, and even just your basic passer-by do things like this and shun people for no good reason, they spread stigma and hurt innocents. So that is why I am so gung ho to advocate on autism. I am defending others to include my own children. Wouldn’t you?