Is autism a disability?
This question has been floating around the internet a lot recently, especially as it is autism awareness month (April). Opinions seem to be divided. Some people on the spectrum think it isn’t, whereas someone else on the spectrum might think it is. Others are baffled as to how their child’s autism could be seen as anything but a disability when they scream, self-harm all day and don’t talk, whereas other parents see their child as a ‘gift’. Autism affects each person so differently, it is probably true that for some it is and some it isn’t.
This is where I come in. My opinion may cause upset to some, this is not the intention, however I am firm in my belief that at least to me, autism is a disability. The only gifts it has given me are being really good at the game show ‘Catchphrase’ and being able to draw 1960’s style tower blocks. The tower blocks are quite astonishing to look at, but it’s not really going to help me get along in life. I could not be an architect because 1. people do not want 1960’s style buildings any more and 2. Because my pictures are drawn when I feel like it and could not be ‘commissioned’ or spontaneous. Kind of like these blog posts. Sometimes I can write three or four within a week, other times I can only write one or less!
The reason I see autism as a disability is that I do not and can not live independently. I am in care and probably will be for the rest of my life. I have met many people who carry the label of ‘Asperger syndrome’ who still live quite happily with their parents, have jobs (or are able to seek work) and some who even drive, live alone and even get married. I don’t like people saying I have ‘Aspergers’, although this label probably fits me now I am older, because I associate it with intelligence and the ability to ‘learn to live a normal life’. Okay I am being a bit one size fits all which we all know is not the case with autism, but I just don’t fit in with my so called ‘peers’. They seem to know when to ‘hide’ their autistic behaviour and how to be acceptable to others. They seem to WANT to be acceptable to others. I am happier being me! Okay so people do think I am ‘odd’ or whatever they want to believe when I start jumping, squealing and flapping in the middle of the town centre because I have seen a particularly fetching Pigeon, but that’s just me.
My biggest problems are sensory overload, communication and social impairments and almost lack of theory of mind. My senses cause me great distress throughout the day. The stress of having to cope with a constant onslaught of sensory input plus trying to socialise correctly usually results in an overload, meltdown or withdrawal. Meltdowns can be quite scary for people to witness as I lose most (or all) of my speech, screech like a banshee, self injure and break things. Sometimes a meltdown is caused by pure frustration. It sucks to have thousands of amazing thoughts, feelings and ideas in my head but to be unable to communicate them. I CAN talk, that is important to note, but I can’t communicate.
So overall, for me, autism is a disability. There will be people both on and off the spectrum who will disagree with me, but that is how I feel.