I read this early this morning. Click here, or below. “Climate Deniers Launch Personal Attacks on Teen Activist.” Subheading: “They also bash Greta Thunberg’s autism, creating collateral damage for others.”
Yeah I’m not going to be polite about this one. I can’t bring myself to be, I’m so, so tired of it.
I want to leave the politics and opinions on climate change out of this for now. Whatever you think, whatever I think, whatever science says is true regardless of anyone’s opinions… it’s not relevant to this, to me, right now.
There are people who don’t know the term “ableism.” I wish I didn’t have to know it from firsthand, (or secondhand, depending on how you’d like to view it), experience.
Ableism – The practices and dominant attitudes in society that devalue and limit the potential of persons with disabilities. A set of practices and beliefs that assign inferior value (worth) to people who have developmental, emotional, physical or psychiatric disabilities.stop ableism dot com
There are also people who will roll their eyes at what they view as liberal millennial PC verbiage.
I wonder how people viewed the term “racism” when it was first used?
For anyone new to my blog, my youngest son is autistic. I first encountered ableism during discussions on vaccinating. I began to grow uncomfortable, then angry, then furious with the people who, though the autism/vaccine link has been debunked, would act as if a child with autism was worse than a child with a debilitating, potentially fatal, vaccine preventable disease. I started asking them if they understood how offensive it was for them to act like having a seriously sick child was better than having a kid like mine. I wish I could say that really anyone at all was receptive to that, instead I was told more than once that if my child were less functional I might feel he was better off dead, and I wish I was making that up, because it’s one of the most vile sentiments I’ve ever read – and I’ve been around the internet for a long, long time.
I didn’t realize there was a word for it then. All I knew was that I loathed it. I don’t know where I first saw the word, but I’ve come to understand it very well – through my own personal lens of autism, specifically. I am 100% certain that other disabilities experience it as well, likely as much, but autism is where it hits home for me.
This is not about acknowledging or accepting the areas that autistics (or others) struggle or lack skills. This is about dismissing the person completely, refusing to see their strengths and competencies, acting as if they are second-class and useless or worse, a drain.
I feel that at best it is offensive and misguided, at worst it is hate speech.
Regardless of your opinion on climate change, Greta Thunberg is a well-spoken, smart and educated 16-year-old girl. I’ve spoken to many adults who aren’t nearly as eloquent, felicitous and driven. She knows exactly what she’s talking about, she knows why, she is direct in a way that many are afraid to be these days. Is that because of, or despite her autism? Who knows. I do know that my son can focus on something that he cares about in a way that not many people can, and trust me, he will know everything there is to know about that topic. She has not come into this arena unprepared, that’s for damn sure.
For anyone to devalue a person, as a whole, and everything they have to say simply because they are also autistic really shows their own character, and frankly, it’s not a good look. In the beginning, people used Greta Thunberg’s age. She’s too young to know. She’s not mature enough to know. I’ve been following what she’s doing for a while. But once the autism came to light, oh boy. Suddenly it doesn’t matter that she’s a girl, or a child, because she can be dismissed on a disability instead. And don’t get me wrong, dismissing someone out of hand because of their gender or age is clearly wrong – but those things are also socially accepted as wrong. Ableism, not as much. Many people still don’t understand it, that it exists, what it is, why it’s wrong. Even well-meaning people – when I once expressed frustration and offence at anti-vaccination folks acting like being like my child is the worst thing in the world, even a friend told me that she’d never thought of it that way before. Thankfully in her case, she understood it clearly once she heard about it. Many don’t, and many of those don’t even care to.
But I have a “high functioning” autistic child. An Aspie, if you will, though in Canada it’s no longer diagnosed as Aspergers but rather falls under the autism spectrum. People will argue that I don’t understand more severe autism, non-verbal, melting down, lashing out, lacking basic skills and so on. I have a nephew who is largely non-verbal, who screams when he’s frustrated or excited, who potty trained very, very late. He’s squirmy and grunty and communicates through noises and pointing. And you know, I love that kid so much. Because I have experience with autism, I am able to handle him in ways that others can’t – even though my son is higher functioning. And when this kid who barely will look a person in the face grabbed my hand at the beach and dragged me around showing me things for an hour, or when he hugs me or lets me kiss the top of his head… it melts my heart. Is he difficult? Yes. It’s very hard on his parents, and I can’t speak for them at all. But he’s my little buddy and I love him the way he is.
So I read the article above, it was one of the first things I came across this morning, and I mulled over it for a while. I shared it on Facebook, and I gave a very condensed version of why I am appalled at how people are treating her. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that ableism itself, whether with regards to autistics or any other disability, absolutely needs public awareness. It can’t change, otherwise.
I know that I am not popular, and I don’t have a huge following, I’m not any sort of influencer, and maybe this post will barely make a ripple. But I have to try, and maybe if others try too, we can make discrimination against the disabled, the differently abled, the non-neurotypical, the mentally ill – as repugnant to society at large as discrimination against race or gender is.
Re-examine yourself frequently. Try to identify your toxic behaviour. Grow yourself with new information. Check your biases. Learn. Understand. At least try.