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Stop calling autism a disease.

Stop calling autism a disease. Stop saying "autistic symptoms" or "symptoms of autism." If autism is a disease, then so is being a man, or being a woman. If autism is a disease, then not being autistic is also a disease. If autism is a disease, then humanity is a disease. If autism is a disease, then liking music, or not liking music, are diseases.

Let's look at some of the traits of autism, the so-called "symptoms," shall we? Not making eye contact, that's a good one. You know what? If that's your metric for a disease, then you might as well say that everyone in Japan is afflicted with a disease, because their culture frowns on making eye contact with one another.

What next? Hey, how about "special interests." So we can't even have hobbies, now? You just called anyone with a hobby diseased, congratulations.

Going on... okay, so stimming. Oh hey, children do that. Is childhood a disease? Is anyone who bites their nails or taps their pencil during a test also diseased? Do you like a certain album or song enough that you've listened to it multiple times in a row? Or an iPod playlist? Does that make you diseased? Please tell me, I want to know.

Oh, and that old stereotype that we lack empathy? Utter bullshit. We have the opposite problem; we have hyper-empathy. We have so much empathy that it overwhelms us and we have to shut it off or shut it out to cope. Also, we may know what you're feeling, but knowing *why* you're feeling that way does not come easily to us. It takes a lot of work, and works best when we know someone really well.

Scientists have found that autism has always existed, it is as much a part of humanity as language is, or music. We autistic people were very useful back in the hunter-gatherer day, since many tasks we had to do required hyper-focus and an ability to zone out and not be bothered by menial tasks. And if all of you allistics would pull your heads out of your collective arses, we'd be very useful to modern mankind, if only you would take the time and effort to reduce the noise levels, both audio noise and visual noise.

The truth is, autistics have been with us since the ancestors of humans first came down from the trees. I'd be willing to bet it was an autistic person who discovered how to create fire without having to wait for lightning to strike.
You know what I think? I think we autistics weren't noticeable for a long time as being distinct from allistics, but as humans left their old ways behind more and more, and the cities got bigger, noisier, and more crowded, I think we who are autistic, we who fulfilled a niche humans needed in those days (and still do, in many cultures around the world) simply were not as able to adapt to the growing noise and crowding. So I think that a lot of what you call "symptoms" of autism are in fact symptoms of our distress at being unable to cope with a noisier, more crowded world.

Do I think this means autistic people can't live in cities? Of course not. For one thing, we do live in cities. In fact, (and bear with me here for a moment) I am a writer, and I have an entire science fiction world full of people who are very much autistic by Western cultural standards. They still live in cities, but their cities are quieter in terms of sound and visual noise, the lights are dimmer because their people mostly lived in forests (like many humans through time) until the cities started to come. And because of a quirk of their evolution making most of them autistic by our standards, they couldn't cope when cities took on traits like our cities, so they would redesign things until they could.

But yes, some of the autistic "symptoms," like say my being uncomfortable in my own skin and thus often twitchy or itchy, I think that symptom is actually a symptom of my anxiety... anxiety I got for being a square peg in a round hole. It makes me wonder how many other "symptoms" of autism are really the result of anxiety. Meltdowns are known to be the result of distress, people trying to force that square peg into that round hole. Any “therapy” that forces us to try to be like you allistics (quiet hands, restraint during meltdowns, any behavior that regularly gives us meltdowns to begin with, etc) are just as abusive as gay conversion therapy is.

So very many of us have had to shave our corners off to fit our square peg into your round hole, but then we get stuck. We don't work right, even when we kinda fit into the round hole, because we were shoved in there, we may have mutilated our minds to fit in, but we will never fit. We are not the disease, your insistence on curing us of an imagined disease is the real disease. Instead of trying to change our square pegs, why not change the holes so they fit you and us equally well, or give us some of our own square holes?

Autism is not a disease. And if you keep referring to it as though it is, I'm going to start referring to allism (that is, not-autism) as a disease.

Yes, the disease of allism. No really, that alien species I mentioned above, who are all autistic by our standards, on their planet there is a condition that amounts to allism. Symptoms may include:

* An unnerving fondness for direct eye contact.
* Lack of awareness or concern of personal boundaries; violates personal space regularly.
* Excessive desire to socialize, to an unhealthy degree.
* Unable to focus for very long on any one task.
* Gets bored easily.
* Unable to speak with strangers about special interests, partly for a lack of same; instead insists on discussing dull things like the weather, or gossiping.
* Seem to want to speak just to hear themselves speak, and wish others to do the same, with nothing of any meaningfulness being transmitted.
* Not only knows what others are feeling (which is normal), but has an unsettling ability to know WHY others are feeling that way, without having to be told. (Possible telepathy?)
* Paradoxically, unable or unwilling to accommodate the needs of others, often upsetting people in ways that were easily preventable, were they normal.
* Unnatural fondness for noise; must fill every available moment of their lives, practically, with sounds or with visual noise.
* Unusually and unnervingly quick to change things around, to fix what wasn't broken, often for no reason at all, or for shaky reasons. (Unnatural aversion to routine.)
* Does not appear to need the normal, natural comfort of stims, at least not to the same degree as usual.

You see what I mean? You can point at anything and call it a disease, but calling it a disease does not make it one. So STOP. CALLING. AUTISM. A. DISEASE!!! STOP CALLING THEM "SYMPTOMS," AND CALL THEM "TRAITS" INSTEAD! STOP TRYING TO CHANGE US! STOP TRYING TO MAKE US FIT YOUR EXPECTATIONS, AND CHANGE YOUR EXPECTATIONS INSTEAD!

And please, please, PLEASE will you take the time to get to know us, listen to us when we tell you what we need you to do or not do to help us cope with this noisy, overwhelming world, and please have some of that empathy and compassion that you keep claiming is an allistic trait, because at least when it comes to autistic people, it seems to me that "lacks empathy" is more a symptom of allism than autism.

This was cross-posted from http://fayanora.dreamwidth.org/1315190.html
You can comment either here or there.

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