“I recently got an email pitch from a company with a social skills product that claimed the product, “will enable [children with special needs] to be accepted by their peers throughout all aspects of their lives.”
I’m not actually sure what the product was because that sentence stopped me in my tracks.
“Be accepted.” I can’t stop thinking about that. “…will enable them to be accepted by their peers…”
I don’t even remember what the pitch was for because it made me so upset. Why the passive structure on that sentence? Why is the onus on the disabled to be accepted? Why is it our job to make you accept us?
Shouldn’t the real issue here be how to get the typical children to accept special needs kids?
I look at my beautiful, perfect, weirdo autistic son. He is not like his peers. He is also not always accepted. It would probably be easier in the long run for him to learn to “be accepted.”
Yet I look at him and the most damaging thing I can imagine saying to him is, “Maybe you should act like everyone else so kids like you more.”
Yes, I’ve put my son in social skills groups. Yes, I teach him about neurotypical society. Yes, I teach him how to navigate the world as it stands. But no, I do not teach him that he has to change so that the other kids will accept him. I tell him that I love him exactly the way he is. If kids are mean to him, I tell him that the problem is with them—not him.
I am a perfect example of someone who has adjusted her behavior to be accepted. At this point it is almost unconscious. I don’t know that it has been terribly damaging to do that. But it has been exhausting. And it is unfair.
I hear people making the argument all the time that people have to work to be accepted. I hear parents of typical kids, parents of autistic kids, and neuro-typical and neuro-diverse people alike say that you have to change yourself to fit in. To a degree, they are right. Most people work to get along with other people. We dress a certain way in business environments. We tend to alter our behavior based on the situation in which we find ourselves.
But these ways of fitting in and the fact that everyone does them doesn’t change the fact that society asks autistic kids and adults to change most of their behaviors and to deny their natural instincts for the purpose of becoming more palatable to the neuro-majority. Society isn’t asking autistic people to make the same adjustments as everyone else. Society is asking autistic people to suppress who they are almost all of the time.
Asking someone to change who they are to be accepted isn’t okay. It’s like asking a woman to learn not to be raped. It’s like asking a child to learn not to be abused. It’s like asking a victim to learn not to be bullied. I know those analogies aren’t exactly right, but that is what it feels like. If you want something to happen, you have to teach the actor—not the recipient.
I am happy that I hear more and more parents defending their kids’ rights to be who they are, society be damned, but I know that I also hear a lot of parents telling their kids that it is their job to fit in. I wonder if all parents—of both typical and autistic kids—stopped trying to help their kids fit in and just told them to be who they are—consequences be damned—if maybe those consequences would disappear.
Maybe the time has come to stop teaching our autistic kids to mold themselves into what society wants them to be. Maybe the answer isn’t to change autistic people until we are palatable to the world at large. Maybe we don’t need to keep working to “be accepted.”
Maybe the answer is to put the onus on everyone else to accept us.”
Article sourced directly from http://autismwomensnetwork.org/node/1634
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