xmlns:og='http://ogp.me/ns#' Yeah. Good Times.: Black and white is for cookies only

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Black and white is for cookies only

The blogosphere is a war zone, the players are autism parents vs. autistic adults, and you have to pick a side.

You can either believe that disabled people are burdens and tragedies or you can believe that disabled people are capable of living happy and fulfilling lives. You can acknowledge and accept the difficulties that autism parents live with every day or you can believe that struggling with autism means that you don't actually love your child. You can't mourn the tragic death of George Hodgins and feel sympathy for his mother at the same time; you just can't. This is a black and white battle and you need to choose which side you're on.

"You're not like my child. You can write. And have a job. And friends."

"You're abusing your child by giving him/her ABA."

"You're a fake autistic/a fraud/a poseur/the enemy of me and my child."

"Grieving because your child is autistic makes you selfish and is not okay."

I'm sorry, but that's fucking bullshit, and I refuse to participate in it. I will not pick a side, because none of this is black and white. There may be extremists on either side of any issue but as like most issues, the majority of us lie in the middle; in the grey area.

Here in the grey area, I know that my experience with autism isn't the same as your experience with autism, but that doesn't mean that my experience is less valid than yours, or that yours is less valid than mine. It just means they're different, and while I have not walked in your shoes, I can still be sympathetic to your feelings; and I expect the same from you in return.

That doesn't just apply to me, of course; that's for all of us. And of course this war didn't start recently, it's been waging for years; but until and unless we all... all of us.... come to terms with these facts, this war will never end. And what good is it doing for our kids? For the adults? For the adults that our kids will be some day?

My friend Rhiannon, who blogs at Unhandicapping the Disabled Life (and who is so much better with words than I am) says: "You can address those with disabilities as entities of value in and of themselves, and for themselves, or you can address them as if their value only exists as contextualized by the part they play in the lives and world of others around them. In either case, there is the issue of how you make those judgements. Do you judge a person, a life, and a place in the world only by its disadvantages, or only by its advantages? Do you judge things for what they are, or in contrast to what they might otherwise have been? Or, perhaps, can we be as realistic about the life of someone with disabilities as we can about any other life, and accept an honest dialogue that reflects the totality of the human experience. That is, after all, what everyone involved in this debate IS.... a human being. It doesn't matter if we're talking about a teacher, aid, therapist, doctor, parent, sibling, or anyone else in the support system (or lack thereof) that, directly or indirectly, is involved in the life of someone with Autism.... even that stranger in line at the store. The fact is, we're all human, and we're all in this together. Not for better OR worse, for better AND worse."

I added the emphasis on that last part because it perfectly sums up what I'm (lamely) trying to say. This "black and white war" does no good for anybody involved, and so I'm staying in the grey area. It's here that I get to both sympathize with my autism mom friends whose experiences have been so much harder than mine, and who tell me that it really is like a battlezone sometimes, and I can learn from my autistic friends who have made my life, and my son's life, so much better just for having known them. I'm lucky that I get both sides and if you're insisting on staying just on one, I feel sorry for you.

The world isn't black and white, and yours shouldn't be, either.