Why I Fight

I want you to imagine someone talking to a deaf person, yelling at them, complaining that they won’t listen. Imagine this person insisting that the deaf person be disciplined for refusing to listen and, because he wouldn’t listen, to be disciplined for subordination.

We would obviously find the person who behaves like this appalling. They are expecting something from someone they are literally incapable of doing. A deaf person’s ears do not work the same as yours — do not work at all in this case. But it would be just as ridiculous to expect a color blind person to differentiate between red and green. Or that a blind person be required to take an art appreciation class. We recognize exactly how ridiculous these things are.

But when it comes to autism, there is a completely irrational expectation that the person simply change their behavior, as though that were at all possible. It’s not. The wiring of our brains are different, the workings of our brains are different, and that results in different kinds of behaviors. I can be made conscious of certain behaviors, but it is difficult at best to always, constantly override those behaviors. For someone like my son, who has mild to moderate autism, and is only 8, the expectation for him to always be able to control himself the way a regular person can is completely unrealistic. As unrealistic as expecting the deaf to listen to you.

Worse, it seems that it is we on the spectrum who always have to accommodate, who have to try to fit in. Why shouldn’t others accommodate us — at least on occasion? Why don’t you try to understand us? We are forced to try to understand you, but it seems that nobody even bothers to try to truly understand us. It would be as though nobody who spoke ever tried to learn sign language, but simply treated the deaf as mental defectives who we need to get out of the way. Because that is the way we are treated. And it needs to stop.

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