• Writer Madeleine Ryan prefers to be called autistic, not a 'person with autism'. (Hector Mackenzie)
Being autistic is magical, and miraculous. Autistic people are a gift to our global community.
By
Madeleine Ryan

13 May 2019 - 8:52 AM  UPDATED 13 May 2019 - 12:34 PM

The autistic are here to remind everyone that humanity was never supposed to be one kind of person. Just like any group of people who have been labelled as weird, or disabled, we’re a reminder of the fact that human beings are meant to be all different shapes, and sizes.

There’s no wrong way to be a human being. Yet, for some reason, everyone wants to be one kind of person. And, usually, that kind of person isn’t who they are.

So when I say that I’m autistic rather than a person with autism, I’m choosing self-acceptance. I’m identifying as an autistic woman in the hope that my self-acceptance can turn into communal acceptance, and global acceptance. When I research the word ‘autism’ in future, I don’t want to see ‘symptoms’ and ‘treatments’ and medical definitions offered by doctors, and scientists. I want to see autistic people expressing themselves, alongside words like ‘magic’ and ‘sensitivity’ and ‘stillness.’

 I want to see autistic people expressing themselves, alongside words like ‘magic’ and ‘sensitivity’ and ‘stillness.’

Because autistic children and adults are enchanting: we express our thoughts and feelings in a whole multitude of ways. We’re introspective, and creative. We’re shameless, and logical. We draw attention to details and patterns that other people wouldn’t notice and, together, we offer the world an alternative perspective, and way of life.

The only aspect of being autistic that’s difficult is when autism isn’t accepted for what it is. I understand that changing public perception takes time, and that there needs to be patience around this. Even the most well-meaning of people don’t know what they don’t know, and they can only know when people like me are in a position to articulate our preferences, or feel brave enough to do so. Which isn’t easy when, supposedly, we’re defined by a struggle to communicate.

Yet I do not see it as a struggle. I see it as a difference. Being non-verbal, or stimming, or mimicking, merely is what it is until other people decide to judge, criticise, or reject it. Autism is only a problem when education systems refuse to accommodate for it, and workplaces undervalue it, and neighbours complain about it.

Autistic children and adults are only shameful when their family and friends are embarrassed by them, so they say that they ‘have’ autism and that they’re ‘with’ autism, as if it were a head cold that’s inevitably going to pass, or a jacket that they could take off when the weather gets warmer. Or, they use this terminology because they’ve never stopped to consider its ramifications.

I say that I am autistic for the people on the spectrum who believe that there’s something wrong with them, and who don’t have access to the language that would allow them to define themselves in a society that refuses to accept them just as they are.

People are going to begin to see how we reveal the limitations of the ways in which everyone communicates, and we’re here to open up a whole new realm of understanding, and connection.

The brain wiring of autistic people cannot be overcome, and this is a good thing. We’re needed. Our sensitivities and idiosyncrasies may seem inconvenient at first. Yet, over time, people are going to begin to see how we reveal the limitations of the ways in which everyone communicates, and we’re here to open up a whole new realm of understanding, and connection.

We illuminate lies and deceptions without even meaning to. We offer alternative modes of expression that extend beyond words, and social niceties. We speak in passions, behaviours, rituals, routines, colours and symbols. We speak with our bodies, and our creations, and we’re here to show people that being polite for the sake of being polite means nothing if you cannot share what you think and feel honestly.

Others on the spectrum identify as ‘aspies’ or ‘Asperger’s’. It’s individual. I prefer ‘autistic’ because I don’t want to attribute my identity to a man’s name, and I prefer the neutrality of ‘isms’. I like how Buddhism becomes Buddhist, feminism becomes feminist, veganism becomes vegan, and autism becomes autistic.  

I don’t want to hide behind diagnostics, doctor’s names, or politically correct language. Nor do I want to change my nature, or set myself apart from it. I am it. I am inseparable from how I perceive the world. So when I tell you that being autistic is magical, and miraculous - and that autistic people are a gift to our global community – for the time being, you’re just going to have to trust me. Because I am autistic, hear me roar.  

Madeleine Ryan is an Australian writer who doesn’t have social media, so please sign up for her newsletter here.

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