Shifting the paradigm on world autism day

April 2nd.

It’s a day that so many of us dread. For as long as “world autism day” has existed, it is a day where (much like every other day) adherents of the pathology paradigm do their best to drown out the voices of those that proudly display their Autistic selves.

Why are we so loud about our experiences as Autistic people? It’s not because we’re trying to take away access to support services for Autistic children, as a certain type of parent will have you believe. It’s because we want to make sure that Autistic people receive support that is not only accessible, but of good quality.

But is this far enough?

Truthfully, no.

Yes, in the current world, we need access to that support. We live in a world that disables us with it’s oppressive nature. The higher your support needs, the more our world seeks to dehumanise you. Should we not be aiming higher than supporting people in a world that treats us like a phenomenon to be studied and experimented on?

Imagine, for a moment, a world where everyone is treated equally. Imagine a world where no one has privilege over another, and no group is marginalised. Imagine a world where being Autistic is no longer a medical issue that requires diagnosis.

This is the world we should be aiming for.

Sadly, societal neuronormativity makes such a world feel impossible. Even the most neurologically queer of us have been raised and indoctrinated into a type of groupthink that makes the act of queering oneself away from said normativity feel like an extreme sport

For some of us, being true to ourselves means putting our life at risk.

In order to move beyond our current society , we must do more than queer the self. We must dismantle the system in which we live and rebuild it. For the new system to work, terms like “neurotypical” and “neurodivergent” must become irrelevant. We need a societal divergence towards a new normal, one in which normal no longer exists.

For this to work, we need to move away from discussion around “disorders” and “conditions” and towards a world in which identity and culture take centre stage. A world where no one needs supporting because society works for everyone, rather than a select few.

This world autism day, we must step forward with a renewed fervour for not just the destruction of ableism, but the belief that a better world is possible. Let April 2nd 2022 be the day that we choose the neurodiversity paradigm.

Perhaps, this time next year, we can wake up to a society that’s just a little bit more accepting than the one we’re in today.

One day, trauma won’t be the collective experience of our autistic culture.

Published by David Gray-Hammond

David Gray-Hammond is an autistic mental health and addiction advocate living in the South East of England. He is in recovery from addiction and psychosis, as well as other complex mental health conditions. He was diagnosed as autistic seven months after achieving sobriety, and is resolved to share his experiences with the world in the hopes of being the person that he needed when he was younger.

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