Part 86: Ten Lashes of the Whip!

Hello, and welcome back to The Autistic Writer. I’m keeping it short this week, mainly because I’m still not well. That’s not to say that the content of this week’s blog isn’t important. It really is. You’re most likely aware that we’re in Autism Acceptance Month, and considering most autistic people would welcome some genuine acceptance, that should be a good thing, right? So why, then, do so many autistic people dread Autism Acceptance Month? Let’s talk about that…

You can find The Autistic Writer on all your favourite social media channels

I cannot, and do not claim to, speak for all autistic people. But I find the way I feel about issues affecting autistic people tends to chime with the general mood of the autistic community. Where autism acceptance is concerned, I feel the general mood is that autistic people would like to be accepted in society just for who we are, with no fuss, no discrimination, no well-intentioned but misguided sympathy, but some fair accommodations for our differences. What we don’t want is to be seen as broken, faulty, or disordered. Now, the subject of whether autism is a disorder is controversial, and some autistic people insist they do indeed have a disorder in autism. Many of us in the autistic community reject that notion, though. It’s a massive subject in its own right, and today is not the day to go into detail, although you can find a deeper insight into the disorder issue in a previous blog – click here. But this week, I came across an article reporting some scientific research into autism as a disorder, and this article was appalling in the way it talked about autism. If you can stomach reading it, you can find it by clicking here.

There was a lot wrong with the article, only the least of which was its deployment of person-first language. The report presents autism as a disorder (which is annoying but expected in a science publication; the scientists tend not to listen to us), but then it goes on to say this:

Yeah, that’s right… not only does it present autism as something that “deteriorates” brain function, but it goes on to talk about “treatment” and “prevention”. This is despite the fact that, 1: All reputable medical authorities agree that autism is not an illness or disease, and therefore cannot be treated or cured, and 2: That “prevention” means eugenics, one of the great evils that has loomed over the planet since the Second World War. It’s pretty sickening, and it portrays autistic people as broken, unacceptable as human beings… disordered. Happy Autism Acceptance Month, right? But it’s just an article, so does it matter? Well, these things have a way of impacting on real autistic people. The constant drip-drip of these discriminatory, dehumanising viewpoints influences people’s thoughts and opinions. In fact, in a Facebook thread discussing the report, I had an interaction with one autistic person who insisted that autism is a disorder. It’s very upsetting for me to hear that a fellow autistic person has accepted and internalised this negative narrative, which is perpetuated by people (EG, researchers) with a vested financial interest (career, salary) in maintaining the view that autistic people are broken and need fixing. Without this view – if autistic people were genuinely accepted – the researchers would be out of their jobs of searching for preventions and cures, see?

The notion that autistic people are broken, incomplete humans, disordered, or are problems waiting to be solved, is encapsulated within a potent recurring image that is continually propagated in popular media and social media, despite the fact that autistic people reject the image as offensive. I’m talking about the jigsaw puzzle piece symbol. People, businesses, charitable organisations, and so on, continue to share images including the jigsaw puzzle piece, supposedly in support of autism acceptance. They are just not listening to the autistic people who are saying, No! We hate the puzzle piece! We are not puzzles to be solved! We are not missing some pieces, we are not less than human!

So, I’m going to share with you ten examples of puzzle piece images I’ve found on social media, supposedly in support of autism acceptance. Ten lashes of the whip, as I think of them, for the pain they inflict on autistic people. Grab your sick bag, and come for a look…

You would think that to “be kind” to autistic people might include listening to us. It might include not using the puzzle piece image This tweet came from an account that appears to be promoting a business.

Another puzzle piece tweet that appears to be from someone promoting a business. Because where there’s autism, there’s cash to be made from exploiters.

The worst thing about this tweet is the patronising tone. Autistic people are… “special” apparently.

The irony of this image is the word “awareness”. The perpetrators clearly aren’t “aware” that we’re not supposed to be talking about autism awareness, but autism acceptance. They are not even aware that the “turn it blue” nonsense comes from Autism Speaks, an organisation generally loathed and detested by autistic people. We don’t accept blue; we go #RedInstead.

It baffles me when someone tweets with the hashtag #AutismAcceptanceMonth, and they see the way Twitter automatically fills in the infinity symbol (which we like), but they don’t stop to think, “Hmm. Infinity symbol… why are we using the puzzle piece, again?” Nope, they just plough on regardless. “Why bother to ask autistic people which symbol they prefer? They’ll like what we tell em to like, right?”

This one appears to be targeted at kids and schools. But it’s just associating autistic kids with the puzzle piece, telling them from an early age they are incomplete humans; reinforcing that negative narrative. Which could well be why some autistic kids grow up to be autistic adults who go on Facebook to argue that they have a disorder.

I would literally vomit trying to eat these. Zero attention paid to how autistic people feel.

This one hurts. I’m not exaggerating, this image inflicted emotional pain on me. “Hope”? Why? Are you trying to tell us that, *sob*, this autism situation isn’t as “hopeless” as it appears, and if we do enough jigsaw puzzles, somehow we’ll get through it? We are not hopeless; we are autistic.

Well-intentioned, but ultimately patronising crap that just perpetuates the harmful notion that there is something wrong with autistic people. After all, if there was nothing wrong, there would be no need to push back against change, right? Stomach-churning fluff.

Okay, this one is a screenshot of a gif. There is no way I would include the actual playable gif here, because when you play it, the background flashes different colours. This is not what people who are dealing with sensory overload, or who might have co-occurring epilepsy, need to see. Absolutely no thought was given to autistic people when putting this piece of crap together.

That’s all I have the strength to deal with, this week. Thanks for reading. Until next time, take care.


Interlude: A brief message

I will never put this blog behind a paywall. I want anyone, anywhere, to be able to access this content at any time. There are costs incurred running this website, however. So if you like what I’m trying to do here, please feel free to show your support with a small contribution via Okay, back to the blog.

You can find The Autistic Writer on all your favourite social media channels

Why Do I Write This Blog?

When I first found out I was autistic, I was a middle-aged adult and I knew nothing about autism.  I quickly learned that there was a serious shortage of information and resources for adults in my situation.  With this blog, I aim to inform about autism and autism-related issues as I learn, hopefully helping people who are on a similar journey of discovery.  Like anyone who writes a blog, I want to reach as many readers as possible; if you like what I’m doing, please share it with your friends and followers.  I will never hide this blog behind a paywall, but running the website does incur costs. If you would like to support, feel free to make a small contribution at BuyMeACoffee.Com.

You might also be interested in David Scothern’s blog, Mortgage Advisor on FIRE, which covers a range of topics including mental health issues and financial independence.

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