I’ve noticed recent articles and social media threads about how people on the spectrum feel exploited for their experiences. They feel as if the world sometimes treats them as if they only exist as educational vessels for the neurotypical public. This isn’t their intention, so I think it’s worth exploring why some people on the spectrum feel this way and how the neurotypical autism advocates can act differently to improve relations with the autistic community.
Below are a few resources for advocates interested in gaining the trust and respect of people on the spectrum:
This post by Lydia Brown challenges everyone who calls themselves an “ally.” Among other ideas, Lydia suggests:
- Allies must not be looking for fame or recognition.
- They must understand the leading voice in the conversation on autism must be from autistics.
- The autistic community gets to decide who is an ally; you don’t call yourself one.
Kimberly Steiner in this article from the Autism Women’s Network says:
- Allies advocate because it is right, not because they will gain something from their work.
- Allies shouldn’t assume they are the only voice or the “better” voice in advocacy.
This article suggests that true advocacy is hard, and can encapsulate many important behaviors, including:
- Boosting the voice of people on the spectrum,
- Correcting misinformation spread by non-autistics, and
- Non-conditional support of civil rights and active fighting of oppression.
Remember that being an advocate means fighting for the rights of others. The focus should be on work that celebrates the voices of people on the spectrum and not furthering a personal agenda of attention, fame, or confidence-boosting.