World Autism Day 2023: A reflection on the work still to do

The date is April 2nd, 2023. This means another World Autism Day (part of the wider Autism Acceptance Month) has arrived, and as the month progresses, we will, as a community, share in the triumphs and comfort one another in our losses.

This month can be a bitter tasting pill for many, with World Autism Day representing a day that should be ours. Sadly, it is often claimed by those whose agenda does not align with the very Autistic people that they claim to support. Today, and all of April, for that matter, serves to remind me of the Autistic people who have left us. The ones for whom this world was simply too cruel to withstand. I often see positivity that change is slowly happening; the change isn’t fast enough, there are no acceptable losses on the road to liberation. Every Autistic person we lose is a scar on our history, and an indictment of the world we live in.

Yes, perhaps the days of asylums is coming to an end, but what of the countless Autistic people here in the UK who are locked away and abused in psychiatric institutions? Can we truly say that the asylums are gone when one can be placed into carcerative care, simply for being Autistic and in distress?

What of the CAMHS crisis that has been ongoing in perpetuity? Can we really say that Autistic people are liberated while our children are being denied their identities and/or turned away from help for being Autistic? Every single day, Autistic people are fighting to exist. While the nature of our fight might be becoming less overtly life-threatening, we still have to recognise that our dramatically reduced life expectancy lists filicide and suicide as to of the biggest factors.

Yes, the world is changing, but it’s not changing fast enough.

Speak of normativity and structural oppression to the average person, and you will be met with blank stares or even gaslighting. To create a truly inclusive world we have to start from the bottom up. We have to consider the foundations that our world’s power structures are built upon. You don’t destabilise oppressive regimes from the top, you foment revolution amongst the people it rests upon.

If I can ask one thing of Autistic people this World Autism Day, through out Autism Acceptance Month, and moving into the future; be resolute in your commitment to shifting the views of the masses.

While change at government and legislative level is vital, it ultimately will fail if we do not change the hearts and minds of our similarly downtrodden friends, family, colleagues, and loved ones. We have to recognise that we are all sharing in oppression and that we have the collective force to cut free from the chains of normativity. We can, together, create a neurocosmopolitan society. We can lay a new foundation for those that come after us to build upon.

I am Autistic, I am proud, and I refuse to accept the way that things are.

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