Content note: this post may be upsetting for some, especially for my fellow autistics who also are anxious about April. Also a brief mention of mental health issues and depression.
And of course, April is ‘Autism Awareness Month.’
I’m already cringing inside. The urge to burrow underneath my weighted blanket until May is honestly very tempting.
You might’ve gathered it from my last post, but I suppose my fear deserves its own post.
April is a very anxiety-inducing month for many of us, and quite justifiably so.
Aside from the frustrating puzzle pieces and blue light bulbs, April consists of a lot more issues. From the crusades for a cure to the narrative that we’re a burden, it’s a hard month for us. Ironically, when we speak up during April, we are told to shut up or that our feelings don’t matter.
I’ve found that the hardest aspect of it for me personally is the constant reminder that autistic people are seen as burdens. From parent memoirs to Twitter tantrums telling everyone how hard it is, it’s actually really depressing.
Take for example a video I saw a while back, saying how they realized the last time that their child was ever going to be “okay.” It broke my heart.
There is no ‘last time’ your kid is going to be okay. Your kid, simply put, is going to be okay – if you give them that unconditional love, acceptance, and support. Autism hasn’t stolen your child. Your child is a unique individual who is deeply loved and wanted.
This video continues to contribute to the thinking that we are burdens, tragedies, a fate worse than death. And once again, that belief is why we have a Disability Day of Mourning for victims of filicide.
I’m beyond done with this narrative that we are so difficult to deal with, or that our parents don’t want us or they even want to kill us. I’m done with people telling me I’m overreacting or too emotional (the humor being that these are the same people that tell me autistics have no emotions).
How do you think these videos make me feel, when the mother talks about her kid being a burden?
I grew up as a child waiting and literally hoping to disappear, because I knew I was different and it was my fault that no one wanted me. I was convinced that I was too much to deal with and that I was a burden. I was in therapy by the time I was around 5 years old – because younger me was depressed. A five year old should not be suicidal, and I was too afraid to tell anyone that I was.
I spent my entire life thinking that I was a burden to everyone around me because of me being different, and that everyone would be better off if I was gone. I remember being seven years old and contemplating the best way to accomplish it – in ways that I wouldn’t dare to recount on this blog.
And you know what?
I’m not going to sit here as an adult and listen to someone imply that I was and am still a burden. I can’t spend all month listening to people constantly talk about us in a way that brings me right back to elementary, middle, and even high school itself.
And if I internalized this stuff (even before my diagnosis), I know there are children out there who have internalized it, too.
Thankfully, I’m not that severely depressed and scared 5 year old little girl anymore.
I am an autistic, disabled adult who will not be compliant, and I will FIGHT to protect disabled kids from being told it’s their fault and that they’re just a burden. I will do everything in my power to protect other autistic children from harm. They’re children, and deserve protection and love.
Our kids are internalizing this. This autism awareness needs to shift away from the negativity and fear.
We don’t need simply just awareness anymore.
We need kindness, and understanding. We need accessibility and accommodation.
Most of all, we need acceptance – that we’re not broken, weird, and unworthy to be loved.
Right now, the only message that we hear throughout all of April and its blue lights is that our existence is tragic – and that being alive is a burden to everyone around us. So many times I have told other autistic kids I was on the spectrum, just to hear them gasp in surprise – because they said they didn’t think autistics were able to do “cool things” like own a pet or have a boyfriend. They’ve been taught for so long that they are inferior, when they have so many strengths.
And that’s why I choose Autism Acceptance Month instead. My fear of April is nowhere near as strong as my fear of other autistics feeling inadequate and unloved.
Our kids deserve better.
Our teens deserve better.
Our adults deserve better.
All of us autistics deserve better.