Champion autistic voices and advocate with us- non-autistic allies can be a fantastic asset and their involvement in promoting neurodiversity has the potential to have a monumental impact, but autism advocacy should have autistic people at its core and autistic voices should be involved every step of the way. For me, it raises serious alarm bells if autism advocacy is occurring without significant input from autistic people.
Step away from functioning labels – Placing people in a binary according to what they can and cannot do can lead to misunderstandings, inaccuracies, stereotyping and harm to autistic people. It is better to focus on support needs: i.e., does the autistic person have high or low support needs, and what are they? This humanizes autistic people and ensures everyone is focusing on what we need and not what others think we can and cannot contribute.
Maintain an open mind and flexible attitude towards autism – When one has limited exposure to something, it can be easy to see that limited exposure as being an accurate reflection of the whole subject but that’s rarely ever the case. Keep an open mind as to what autism is and how it presents itself. Understand that you’ll always be learning! Please also know that autism isn’t static; the autistic facets a person has will forever ebb and flow and they will experience change and growth just like non-autistic people do.
See autism as more than a list of deficits – Autism is not a collection of deficits, rather a neurological difference, but because society is structured in a way that only supports neurotypical people, neurodivergent people (including autistic people) are not supported and face additional challenges that lead to struggles that other misperceive as deficits on our part. Autistic people can have many talents (including hyper-focus, attention to detail, and a strong long-term memory), but you don’t hear about these because people choose to focus on our struggles that are (nothing to be ashamed of and) misperceived as deficits. It’s high time to view autism in light of its gifts as well as its challenges.