Tuesday, 20 May 2014

Response to Toni Braxtion

This article came up on my news feed. It provoked some interesting discussion when I shared it. I got involved in the discussion on two of my friend's pages where they had shared the same article. This is my response to the article.

Autism is not a tragedy. My issue with this article is that because she's a celeb she's spouting ableist crap about autism and people who don't think critically and research about autism themselves with believe it and take it as gospel, because you know, a celebrity said it! This kind of rhetoric hurts the autism community. It divides us, adds to the hatred, exclusion and discrimination that many of us experience already. I do not agree with functioning labels either. I am what some would class as high functioning, but no one sees me at my worst and how often that happens. Most people only see a snapshot of me at my best and wrongly assume I'm always like that. I'm not. E.g. I can't drive due to dyspraxia and anxiety. I had a nervous breakdown last year. My son went to daycare almost full time as I need lots if solitude to recover. He now goes 3 days a week. I have meltdowns almost weekly, sometimes more than once a week. I don't work. My anxiety is quite high. I'm very sensitive and easily triggered. I have many times felt like a burden and that I'm useless. That is less now. I'm starting to get back on my feet and cope a bit better. I manage my sensory issues and anxiety as best I can. I've accepted that I will likely never be able to drive. I make an effort to focus on what I can do, rather than what I can't. If I continued to believe the many harmful messages I internalized growing up, undiagnosed I might add, I would easily fall in a heap and want to die. I don't though. I make an effort to be the change I want to see in the world. This is why I'm so disgusted that this very clearly ignorant woman would spout such harmful ableist crap for anyone to read. The ignorant (about ASD) masses will likely believe it and it further feeds negative stereotypes and adds to the us versus them language! Overall it's disgusting.

Further thoughts on functioning labels. 
Low functioning means your strengths are ignored and your issues focused on. High functioning means your very real struggles are ignored and your strengths focused on. From Autism Women's Network.

I have been told my whole life how talented and capable I am. Due to my executive function issues, attention and concentration issues, my anxiety, my lower levels of energy it means I struggle to achieve what I've been led to believe I should be achieving. This meant I hated myself a lot for awhile. I don't any more. I get frustrated with the negative language used to describe us on the spectrum and point harmful language and attitudes when I see it.
I make an effort to parent my son (likely on the spectrum somewhere) differently and not tell him that because he's not doing xyz by a certain age that he's delayed and never will. I don't believe in timelines for children or adults to reach milestones or achieve things by. Some of us take longer to develop than others (me included) and that's okay.
I'm using myself as an example and what I've read in terms of a positive non-ableist view of ASD to help illustrate what I mean.

The real tragedy is the harmful ableist view mainstream media and a lot of people have (including many professionals) about ASD. They are missing out on really getting to know us and our potential. We may not fit in with their small idea of how person should behave, talk and interact/connect with others, but we do find our own path and ways of forming community and connection. There is no one way of being human.

I struggle with religion. I was raised religious, my father is a pastor. I saw a lot of hypocritical abusive crap behind the scenes. One thing I have learnt is that we are all hypocrites (myself) included. It is so important to think before we judge others and check that we ourselves do not have the same issue, only bigger. It says this clearly in the Bible. I will stand up and say something about injustice and harmful language, which this ridiculous article clearly is. Yes, there is freedom of speech but that does not mean that your opinion is right and helpful to others. This Toni woman clearly has very little understanding of what Autism really is, she has gotten her info from misguided organisations and individuals. The best people to educate people about autism are people on the spectrum, we have lived it! Others have not and can only assume what it is like.

The other issue I have in terms of the religious aspect of this article is the idea that God punishes us for our mistakes and choices. I do not agree with this at all. Yes, there is consequences for our choices, note, natural consequences. A bit like karma, I suppose. God is not up there looking out for people who make mistakes and bad choices to smite them. I do not believe in a God like that. That is hateful and harmful. I believe in a God that loves unconditionally and forgives. He is not hateful of us. He hates what many humans choose to do with their free choice, but he ultimately loves us. I feel sorry for Toni in terms of how much self-hate she has towards herself and her choices because of her religious view. The self-flagellation will only serve to hurt her and her son.

I have read ridiculous harmful crap written by religious people spouting that those who are depressed and/or mentally ill are not praying enough, do not have a close enough relationship with God, are not Christian enough. I cannot stand that attitude, the you are not good enough, pull yourself up by your boot straps crap. It is so out-dated, harmful and self-hating. This is a lot of why I have walked away from religion. I am too fragile and easily triggered by this harmful thinking. I am on my own spiritual journey with God.

Further reading:

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