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Why We Need Autism Acceptance and Pride

As anyone who is familiar with me or my website knows, I am a big time proponent of the autism acceptance and autistic pride causes. I have written an article on each of the subjects, and almost every page of the website contains an 88x31 button championing each of them. For a variety of reasons, one or both of these causes rub some people the wrong way, perhaps because of the complete mainstream blackout in regard to how dire the circumstances of many autistic people are due to a lack of acceptance, empathy, and even basic understanding from society at large (an absolutely wonderful minority of caring and understanding neurotypical allies aside).

Although I had briefly touched on the reasons for my views in the aforelinked articles, I was spurred into action by a kerfuffle that I found myself in regarding this subject, to dedicate an entire article to the myriad of problems that plague autistics as a whole, in the interests of better illuminating these issues to people.

This article was very difficult to write for me because of how infuriating, depressing, and grave much of the subject matter contained herein is. Nonetheless, it is absolutely one of the most important subjects that I will ever write about, if not the most important, and as such it needed to be done. Although I have been lucky enough to avoid many (but not all) of the phenomenon covered in this article, millions of other autistic people have not and do not have that privilege.

Some of the subject matter in this article is horrifying, and it may sound a tad unbelievable to someone unaware of these issues that some of these things are actually happening with no apparent mainstream coverage. As such, I have made it even more of a point than usual to include links to scientific studies and news articles whenever possible for every claim that I have made. I have also linked to various other autism-related articles, both ones written by myself and by other autistic people around the Web for clarification on various subjects. If any terminology I have used seems unfamiliar, please consult my Autism Terminology page, as an explanation is probably there.

Before I go any further, I should clarify what I mean by both autism acceptance and autistic pride. Autism acceptance, in contrast to the mainstream autism awareness, involves pushing for acceptance of autism and autistic behaviours as healthy, natural differences in brain-wiring, as well as inclusion of autistic people in society. Autistic pride involves celebrating the many positives of autism and autistic people (of which there are many) and fighting back against the widespread stigmatisation of the neurotype as something to be eradicated, "treated", or ashamed of.

A Two-Sided Misunderstanding

In order to understand why autism acceptance and pride are needed, one more first understand what autism is and what makes autistic people behave differently and experience the world in a different way from neurotypicals. The most logical and all-encompassing explanation that I am aware of is the Intense World theory, which postulates that autism is a type of brain-wiring where the brain is exceptionally hyper-connected and hyper-active, which leads to autistic people experiencing most things (sounds, smells, tastes, social input such as eye contact and facial expressions, emotions, etc) in a far more intense and overpowering manner than neurotypicals do due to the overload of additional information we have to process. I already wrote a lengthy article on this subject for anyone interested, so I will avoid going into further detail here.

Needless to say, the level of hyper-perception that most autistic people experience causes us to engage in a wide variety of unusual and off-putting behaviours in order to cope with the outside world. This includes anything from stimming to calm and self-regulate, to avoiding eye contact, to completely withdrawing from social interaction and into our inner worlds and special interests.

Although autistic people are commonly stereotyped as lacking cognitive empathy - that is, not being able to discern other people's feelings by observing them - it has been repeatedly proven that most neurotypicals are just as bad at understanding and empathising with autistic people due to mutual differences in communication. This phenomenon is known as the double empathy problem.

To provide an example, whereas an autistic people would not question why their fellow autistic avoids eye contact during conversation as they too understand the feeling of being overwhelmed by and not knowing how to respond to all of the information they glean from looking in a person's eyes, a neurotypical who is unfamiliar with autistic people may assume the autistic person is either being snobby or is lying to them and afraid of being caught.

These misunderstandings between autistics and neurotypicals can easily result in serious problems. Many autistic people, myself included, have been approached and questioned by authorities for coming off as suspicious due to behaviours such as lack of eye contact and stimming, the latter of which is often interpreted as evidence that a person is either on illegal drugs or is mentally ill, despite it fundamentally being no different from someone tapping their foot or fidgeting with their hair. In a number of cases, autistic children have been assaulted and even shot by police officers who interpreted their natural communication methods as being threatening.

Most autistic people do eventually learn to mask as neurotypical when in public via avoiding stimming, forcing ourselves to make eye contact with people, modulating our tone of voice, and so on. This can be very stressful for most of us and has a number of very unpleasant long term side effects. More on all of this later.

Even if we manage to avoid unintentional trouble with authority, lack of acceptance and understanding of autistic people's behaviour is something that affects us in every part of our lives. Employment for example is usually locked behind job interviews, an unpredictable social hurdle that can often be almost insurmountable for most autistic people. As a result, the unemployment rate amongst college-educated autistic people specifically is an astounding 85%. Four times the rate of people with actual intellectual disabilities!

I have noted before the fact that, in spite of autism being officially classified as an intellectual disability, autistic people are actually significantly more likely to have high IQs than neurotypicals are. I bring this up not to attempt to imply superiority, but merely to point out that it can be reasonably assumed that the extreme unemployment rate is most likely correlated to discrimination against autistic people for their eccentricities, as opposed to an intellectual inability to complete job duties as needed.

Some people may perhaps suggest that autistic people should simply apply for disability benefits if they are completely unable to secure employment due to rampant discrimination. From all of the anecdotes I have heard, including one from an autistic friend who has been fruitlessly fighting with the system about this issue for a year, this is an incredibly arduous task, at least in the United States, and as such is impossible to achieve for the majority of autistic people, no matter how well they may plead their case.

In essence, society in general is systematically preventing autistic people from earning livelihoods (unless they can manage to start their own business), often refusing to provide basic accommodations to those who do managed to get hired to ensure that they can both hold down the job and retain their sanity, and then refusing to provide a way to survive without earning a living. I am not attempting to imply that there is a plot to either push autistic people towards suicide, homelessness, or crime, but that is indeed how it appears from a distance.

As a big proponent of autism acceptance, I obviously do not desire for functional autistic people to spend their lives laying around and receiving free money. Autistic people want to contribute just as neurotypicals do, but we merely require acceptance and (for some of us) accommodations in order to do so. For my part, I am one of the rare autistic adults who was been lucky enough to find a company with very accepting and kind people, and have blossomed greatly there as a result. I can say with utmost honesty that I would never want to trade my situation for a life of sitting at home and receiving benefits for supposedly being intellectually unfit to contribute to society.

Thankfully, as times change, the situation is slowly beginning to improve for more and more autistic people in this aspect. As the benefits of hiring autistic people are beginning to become more recognised, multiple companies such as SAP and Microsoft have created programs that vet potential autistic employees by putting their technical skills to the test directly in place of a job interview.

Systematic Atrocities

Sadly, one thing that has not been changing for the better is the mainstream medical discourse around autism. Rather than spread understanding and acceptance of autistic behaviours and communication methods, abusive so-called "therapies" are pushed to suppress them, the most notable of which is known as ABA (Applied Behaviour Analysis). Although I have (praise be to Bast) never been forced to experience this abusive "therapy" due to evading diagnosis in my childhood, I have read enough anecdotes on the subject to have some understanding of how horrific and abusive it is. I will let this article written by an autistic who attempted suicide on the way to ABA "therapy" to avoid it speak for itself.

In spite of being hailed as a benevolent treatment that helps autistic people function, it was invented by a demented lunatic known as Ivar Lovaas, who physically tortured children and openly claimed that autistic people weren't human. When he wasn't subjecting children to electrical shocks, Lovaas worked on developing gay conversion therapy, which is based on the same principles as ABA.

Even ABA practitioners themselves struggle to conceal the horrors of this therapy, openly recommending subjecting children as young as 2 years of age to 40 hours per week of "therapy" designed to force them to hide their extreme discomfort to the overwhelming world around them and suppress the natural behaviours that they need to maintain their sanity in day to day life. I would deem subjecting a child of that age to 40 hours of anything they don't want to do as being child abuse, let alone 40 hours of what is objectively torture.

If all of this sounds far-fetched or biased due to coming from an autistic adult's Neocities website, this scientific study, which discovered that 46% of autistics who go through ABA come out with PTSD may be worth a read. Keep in mind also that at least one special needs school in the United States is somehow still being legally allowed to use electrical shock torture on autistic children as of this writing.

The abuse that autistic children face does not stop with malevolent so-called medical therapies. Child sexual abuse is an atrocity that is horrifyingly commonplace even among neurotypical children, but autistic children, mostly girls, are estimated to be nearly three times more likely to experience it due to predators considering them more vulnerable targets as a result of communication issues and the autistic tendency to be more naive than neurotypicals. One study also found that autistic children are also three to four times more likely to be bullied by other children than neurotypical children are.

Children and insane doctors are cruel enough, but it is somehow even more hurtful that some of the absolute worst abuse that autistic children face comes from their own parents. I refuse to sully this site with a link to any such filth as an example, but the Web is depressingly littered with so-called "autism parents", who make their child's neurotype their entire personality, and regularly humiliate their growing children that they claim to care so much about, by publicly posting videos and articles about their difficulties, such as having meltdowns or stimming in public, apparently oblivious to the fact that their child has a future ahead of them. I cannot strain my imagination enough to come up with a logical explanation for how, in this digital age, anyone would think it would be a good idea to record and plaster their child's most shameful and low moments all over the Web for people to view for the rest of their life.

Again, I am not describing the actions of mentally underdeveloped schoolyard bullies, but the actual parents of autistic children. I can only pray to Bast that when these so-called parents grow old, their autistic children decide to make "dementia caretaker" their calling, and broadcast every shameful moment of their aging parents' decline for all of the world to gawk at.

While it's true that some lower-functioning autistic children may never be able to work or live a normal life, this is still not even remotely an excuse for inflicting child abuse on them. Furthermore, autistics who appear low-functioning and hopeless in their childhood can still develop into fully functioning adults, especially if they receive adequate support.

Not all psychopathic parents of autistic children are content with torturing or humiliating their own progeny, however; some of them will flat-out murder their autistic child(ren) for being too much of a "burden." It's estimated that filicide, the murder of a disabled (a group which autistics are officially counted in) child or adult by their parent or caregiver, occurs at least once per week.

Even worse, in many cases the murderer is never punished or is given a slap on the wrist sentence due to being seen as the real victim for having to take care of a person with significant needs. This is a precedent that should worry anyone who is at risk of growing old and/or developing a severe health condition one day, as society is apparently a few steps above legitimising stabbing grandma to death with a kitchen knife because her incontinence became too much of a hassle to deal with.

A side note about autistic meltdowns, which make up a large part of "autism parent" videos. Some people who are unfamiliar with the phenomenon may consider it equivalent to temper tantrums and thus something that does need to be punished in some way. As the aforelinked definition explains, meltdowns, in contrast to tantrums, are involuntary fight-or-flight responses to exceedingly painful and stressful situations such as sensory overload or severe/unexpected violations of important routines. They are no more purposeful or controllable than someone jumping out of their skin in response to an unexpected loud noise.

There's a common saying in autistic circles which explains this far better than I could: "an autistic child having a meltdown is not giving you a hard time, they are having a hard time." The United Kingdom's National Autistic Society has worked with autistic people to make a series of YouTube videos showing just how overwhelming some common environments and situations can feel to autistic people, especially children and lower-functioning adults. Returning readers have surely already seen me link to them many times, but I will provide the links once again for the benefit of anyone who has not yet watched them, as they really are just that good at getting this point across.

No one with the faintest shred of empathy would find anything amusing or exploitable about seeing a war veteran with PTSD ducking under a table in response to a loud noise, but this sort of understanding is still often absent for autistic people. While I do not wish to minimise the horrific plight of traumatised veterans (although as mentioned earlier, PTSD is not uncommon in autistic people either), autistic people, children especially, can also suffer debilitating amounts of stress and pain in response to various stimuii.

As an example, I personally have had a depressive episode brought on from someone slamming a drawer loudly before, and I recall reading a somewhat relatable anecdote from an autistic woman who would start crying whenever she heard anyone raise their voice for any reason. The hyper-activity of the autistic brain extends to emotions just as much as it does to sensory input, and the latter can and does trigger activity in the former.

To avoid making this article any longer, I will leave a link to this article I wrote, which describes how a number of common things, including meltdown-triggering ones, can feel to us. This article is lacking some important experiences, and I do have plans to flesh it out some more one of these days.

Start of Darkness

The systematic stigmatisation and abuse of autistic people does not originate in a void, and is firmly rooted in the ignorance that wholly pervades mainstream discourse regarding the neurotype. Perhaps the most egregious example of this is the fact that the most well-known and trusted autism-related organisation, by a wide margin, is still Autism Speaks, a hateful organisation that is led by and comprised of almost entirely neurotypicals.

Far from working to help autistic people, Autism Speaks instead spends its money on researching a way to "cure" autism (a literal call for genocide) and detecting autism in the womb so that autistic babies can be aborted. They are also known for spreading almost comically bigoted propaganda slapping autism with absurd labels including a "tragedy" and an evil entity that corrupts/steals children and destroys families.

Not only is the notion that autism "steals" children incredibly hurtful, sometimes leading to parents quite literally grieving the existence of their own child, it is also wholly inaccurate. Autism is as fundamentally a part of what an autistic person is as anything can possibly be. Someone saying that autism stole their child is as ludicrous as them saying that "green eye-ism" stole their real blue-eyed child; just as there was never a "real blue eyed child" in this metaphor, there are no lost neurotypical children that were stolen and replaced in the middle of the night by the Autism Faerie.

On the subject of child-stealing faeries, there exists significant evidence that the mythology of Changeling children - children stolen by magical creatures and replaced with something that resembles a human child but isn't one - was a widespread ancient explanation for autism. Just like this notion of a parent's child being replaced by a subhuman replica allowed them to justify inflicting horrific abuse, up to and including murder, on their own autistic child to try to "save" them, the modern equivalent of autism being some sinister child-stealing entity helps support an entire medically-sanctioned industry of horrific child abuse.

Out of curiousity, while writing this article, I looked up "autism" on Google, by far the most popular (but not best!) search engine in the world. Out of the first three results, two of them were the website of the dreadful aforementioned Autism Speaks. Beyond those links, all but one of the search results on the first page was hostile propaganda alternatively labeling autism as a "disability" and a "disorder" and advocating for it to be "cured" or "treated", the latter term of course referring to abusing autistic children into suppressing their natural behaviours.

In the interests of fairness, the second result was a link to the United Kingdom's National Health Service's page about their definition of autism, which presents a pleasantly informed and positive (by mainstream standards at least) explanation of the neurotype. It still bears noting that the Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), a genuinely benevolent and helpful charity founded and led by autistic people and universally supported in the autistic community has absolutely no presence in the aforementioned top search results.

As I covered in my article dedicated to debunking the myth of the "autism epidemic", medical understanding of autism has evolved explosively over the past decades, and many psychiatrists are still clinging to inaccurate and archaic views about the neurotype. The prevalence of this issue has caused many "high-functioning" autistic people such as myself to completely escape diagnosis as children, and also contributes to parents of children who are diagnosed to being fed the same aforementioned codswallop about their child's neurotype being some sort of horrific problem that they need to "fix".

Taking the perspective of a parent of a newly diagnosed autistic child, who has no former knowledge of or experience with autistic people, and who finds themselves presented with the same fearmongering from virtually every prominent and mainstream source they turn to, it is understandable why so many wind up believing the narrative. As every propagandist knows all too well, fear is an excellent motivator, and the idea that one's own child has been cursed and irreparably broken by some terrifying malady is a very excellent vehicle for it. The cultish hysteria that the mainstream propaganda about autism triggers in parents is enough to then drive many of them to adopt the sort of sordid behaviours and attitudes towards their child that are described in this article.

The sheer volume of harmful misinformation that pervades the mainstream discourse about autism, and the actual tragedies it so often leads to, is also one of the biggest drivers for my writing and advocacy on the subject, as well as the work of many other autistic self-advocates around the world. Much provable good has already come from neurotypical parents learning about autism from the perspectives of autistic adults and realising they were being systematically and maliciously lied to about their own children.

Lamentably, even though the Internet is often a great equaliser (and actually has been a great boon for the autistic community, bringing us together and giving a voice to those who either don't have one or struggle to communicate verbally!), autism discourse is often dominated by neurotypicals online. The term and hashtag Actually Autistic/#actuallyautistic, which you will notice me using sometimes, was specifically invented to differentiate articles and posts written by autistic people from ones written by neurotypicals.

I do not claim to be some infallible bastion of wisdom, but as an actually autistic adult with decades of experience being autistic (and countless hours of research reading autism-related studies and articles by other autistic people) under my belt, I feel I am far more equipped to spread knowledge about the neurotype than the metaphorical blind people attempting to discern the nature of an elephant by groping its tusk. Given that autism is an infinitely diverse spectrum, I myself have also learned a great deal about the neurotype from reading countless articles and posts from other autistic people with different experiences than my own.

Late-Stage Autism Rejection

Perhaps the easiest way to get across just how grave the issues facing the autistic community faces are, is to put a number to the problem. According to a 2017 study focusing on injury mortality in autistic people, the average lifespan of an autistic person is only 36 years.

While this study focuses on deaths caused by injuries, which are estimated to comprise 28% of autistic deaths, there are a myriad of other factors that contribute to this disheartening statistic. A study published in 2015 for instance, showed that autistic people are ten times more likely to commit suicide, a phenomenon that is even more common in both autistic women/girls and autistics on the high-functioning/Asperger's part of the spectrum. The latter is most likely explained by the fact that autistic people deemed high-functioning are far less likely to receive accommodations and support because their high IQs and ability to mask as neurotypical gives off the false impression that they aren't struggling and don't need any help.

This is the main reason many autistic people detest labels such as "low-functioning" or "high-functioning" - many autistic people, such as myself, have high IQs and can mask as neurotypical but have issues such as crippling sensory sensitivities, anxiety, and executive dysfunction that cause numerous difficulties in everyday life. Essentially, denying an autistic person accommodations and help simply because they have above average intelligence is as fundamentally illogical as denying accommodations to a bodybuilder with crippling arthritis because their physical fitness suggests they're in perfect shape.

Personally, I am of the view that the spectrum of autism is based largely on three factors: the first two being how hyper-connected/hyper-active an autistic person's brain is, and what their capacity is for processing all of the extra sensory input that this hyper-activity begets, the latter of which can perhaps be measured with IQ. The third factor is the environment that the autistic person is raised in - whether they were treated with acceptance and understanding, or abused and ostracised for their innocuous and uncontrollable natural differences.

To quote the murderous Soviet dictator Vladimir Lenin: "Give me four years to teach the children, and the seed I have sown will never be uprooted". Although this quotation is meant to champion the power of ferverently brainwashing children at an early age into believing a political ideology, it also unintentionally stands as an extremely lamentable yet true statement about the permanent effects of child abuse on a person's psyche. Much as a house built on a rotten foundation is doomed to fall, a child raised to loathe themselves is doomed to ruin.

Growing up in a volatile environment full of sensory assaults and frightening, unpredictable changes is bad enough. Having the pain and fear one feels in response to this ignored or ridiculed by peers and authority figures, who reinforce the notion that one is defective, inferior, or a burden can lead to trauma, a myriad of personality disorders, or worse. Lamentably, on top of being far more likely to constantly be confronted with traumatic stimuli than neurotypicals are, autistic people are also far more suspectible to suffering severe mental side effects from them.

I mentioned earlier that autistic brains are incredibly hyper-connected and hyper-active, but it's important to note that the area of the brain that this hyper-activity is most prominent in is the amygdala, which handles emotion, and fight-or-flight response, among other things. This in turn makes autistic people, especially children, far more likely to be frightened by stimuli, far more likely to form fear memories as a result, and far less likely to eventually lose those fear memories after they are developed. This is shown in the fact that 41% of autistic children have phobias.

The anxiety and phobias that are so prevalent in autistic children are doubtless also a major contributor to the aforementioned injury-related deaths amongst autistic people. Many autistic children elope (run away), often as a result of seeing no other way to deal with the intense world around them that no one else seems to notice, and these cases quite often end in the child dying from drowning or falling. Indeed, the aforelinked study showed that over 50% of these injury-related deaths involved drowning, suffocation, or asphyxiation. Yet, so many of these tragedies could've been prevented if these children's parents or caretakers had accepted them for who they were and provided them with an environment that allowed them to thrive.

A revolutionary study that I covered before in my Intense World article involved three groups of autistic and neurotypical rats that were housed in three separate environments. One of the environments was oppressively dull, and two were "enriched" with better food, a larger living environment, toys, and additional playmates. One of the enriched environments was kept stable and predictable, while the other one was subject to unpredictable modifications.

Not only did the autistic rats in the enriched but predictable environment respond much better than the rats in the other environments, but half of them did not display any outward signs of autism, such as stimming and none of them suffered from the anxiety that plagued the other autistic rats. The implications of this revelation, especially concerning ABA and forced masking, are incredibly damning. Society is attempting to "treat" people who are displaying signs of trauma by further traumatising them, effectively fighting fires with gasoline. It is as if PTSD-afflicted war veterans were treated by being abused every time they showed a sign of distress. Madness of the absolute highest order.

I mentioned earlier that most autistic people practice masking as neurotypicals to avoid the many perils of being openly autistic, and this is something that brings its own host of problems. Having to consciously pretend to be someone else all day long, communicate in ways that are unnatural and uncomfortable for us, hide our distress to stimuli that does not bother neurotypicals, and suppress the behaviours we use to cope is very stressful for most autistic people. At best, it can cause us develop a strong aversion to social interaction/events as a whole. At worst it can lead to autistic burnout, where the long term stress of masking causes an autistic person to become too exhausted to perform daily life functions.

Autistic burnout can last for anywhere from days or weeks to even multiple years and can be accompanied by depression, suicidal ideations, and loss of skills including the ability to mask. Although factors such as prolonged daily exposure to unpleasant environments such as loud/crowded areas can lead to autistic burnout, autistics who have jobs where they are forced to constantly interact with other people - retail, customer service, etc - are particularly vulnerable to it.

Ultimately, the problem with masking is that it is the equivalent of attempting to shove a square peg into a round hole. Much like the metaphorical peg cannot truly ever enter the hole, and will only be broken eventually by the efforts of the person pushing it, most autistic people cannot ever truly camouflage themselves as neurotypicals.

One sentiment I have seen expressed by many autistic people is that even if we hide our stims and monitor every little thing we do, neurotypicals can still tell that there is something "off" about us. Some have described this as an "uncanny valley" effect. Indeed, despite the fact that an estimated 70% of autistic people regularly mask, research has shown that neurotypicals consistently form negative initial biases against autistic people when verbally interacting with them that lead to them avoiding future interactions. Interestingly, the same research showed that no such biases exist when the interaction is done via text and no audio-visual cues are present.

On top of all of these other issues, the amount of mental effort that masking requires means that no autistic person is always going to be capable of doing it. Even the most neurotypical-passing autistic's masquerade will eventually collapse when they have a particularly stressful day and do not have any energy left to expend on their acting gig. Moreover, as I discussed earlier, being too good at masking brings its own set of problems, making it look like an autistic person is not actually struggling and preventing them from obtaining the accommodations they may need.

As the practice of masking and the myriad of issues that come with it become more mainstream, more people, including researchers are beginning to suggest eschewing this harmful practice in favour of spreading acceptance and understanding of autistic people's differences.

A Better Way

As U.S. President John F. Kennedy once said: "A rising tide lifts all boats". Autistic people can be incredibly capable in all sorts of fields, and there is very strong evidence that many of the most accomplished people in history, from Isaac Newton to Charles Darwin to Michelangelo, were autistic. Obviously, these people were extreme outliers in more than one way, and the vast majority of autistic people do not measure up to them, but a person should not have to be a genius in order to be treated with basic decency and respect. There are also other, more practical reasons that neurotypicals could benefit from autism acceptance being pushed.

As I explored in more detial when debunking the idea of the autism epidemic, the world has gotten inconceivably louder, brighter, and more extroverted in the past century, which, along with an increase in medical understanding of the spectrum, directly coincided with the sudden explosion of autism diagnoses. I mentioned that this change in living environments almost certainly caused an upswing in the percentage of autistic people that stood out as being unable to function in society, but these changes also negatively affected many neurotypicals, especially introverts, to a lesser degree.

When sensory hours were unveiled in some supermarkets to allow autistic people to shop in a quiet, low-light environment, some neurotypicals found themselves attracted to the serene environment over the loud and unpleasant default supermarket setting, as an example. As most anyone knows by now, the Web is filled with many thriving communities of introverted neurotypicals bemoaning their frustrations with having to live in a loud, uncomfortable, hyper-social world, anecdotes that can feel extremely relatable to many autistic people.

The conditions of the modern world are wholly unnatural, and autistics are far from the only people who would benefit from changes to make it more tolerable. I recall multiple occasions in my own life where I complained about stimuli that was bothering me, only to learn that it was bothering other, neurotypical people, who had simply not gotten aggravated enough yet to have complained themselves.

I have been told a few times that I am being unrealistic when I advocate for autism acceptance in society. Although I can admit that I am prone towards being overly idealistic at times (I am an INFP after all!), I do not think it is too great of a stretch to imagine society acknowledging and accepting autistic people's differences and meeting us halfway. As mentioned earlier, despite having numerous painful experiences earlier in life related to being autistic, I have been able to find employment with who accept me for who I am and treat me with respect and understanding, something that has done wonders to cull the incredibly antisocial attitudes I have harboured for most of my life.

Learning that I was autistic in my adulthood, and thus that there were scientifically valid reasons for my various aversions and issues, has been incredibly liberating. Much like some other autistic adults who eluded diagnosis as children, I had developed exceedingly strong boundaries and a very hostile attitude towards other people due to consistently having my needs ridiculed and ignored. It has been quite a revolution to learn that there was a commonly known word that explained how my brain works and why it's OK for me to avoid certain things.

In the course of writing this article, I politely declined an invitation from a friend to an important social event of theirs by explaining that I did not feel myself able to attend a crowded event for multiple hours and remain in a pleasant enough state of mind to not be a drag. A while back I have also begun wearing headphones and earbuds at work and in public when necessary, and allowed myself to avoid eye contact with people if I am too stressed out to do it or feel I won't be able to properly listen to them while doing so.

These have been much more pleasant and "healthy" ways of handling things that trigger my autism than my previously antisocial attitudes, which were a sort of Then Let Me Be Evil reaction to being made to feel like some selfish scrooge for repeatedly asserting my needs as a child, something that made me genuinely believe that I was some caricature of an evil loner who is destined to be at odds with everyone else. I am far from the only autistic person to grow up harbouring this sort of sentiment; many other autistic adults who escaped diagnosis as children came to feel the same way for similiar reasons.

Ultimately, I cannot bring myself to find anyhing radical in the notion that we cannot consider ourselves to be a civilised and enlightened people if we brutalise people, especially children into suppressing their innocuous natural behaviours in order to conform to arbitrary societal norms. In traumatising autistic children into terrified conformity with tortures like ABA and ostracising autistic adults who can't perfectly fake being neurotypical, humanity reveals itself as not having advanced by a single inch since the dark days of the boarding schools where Native American children were abducted from their families and abused into abandoning their culture and identity to conform to the dominant Anglo norms of the time.

Human beings are quite tribal and possess an inherent tendency to want to marginalise or even destroy those they deem different from themselves, a phenomenon which history is littered with examples of. Just the same however, humans also possess the gifts of empathy and reason, which grants us the ability to grow to overcome this, something history also possesses numerous heartwarming examples of.

Just as we are capable of sordid behaviours such as burning women alive for suspicion of practicing witchcraft, and drilling holes in the skulls of mental patients to "cure" (don't you just love that word by now?) them of their supposed demonic possession, we are capable of putting aside the animosity that wartime propaganda has done its best to instill in us to throw aside our weapons and peacefully celebrate Christmas with enemy soldiers in the middle of a battlefield.

The bottom line is that being autistic is not a choice, but treating people with acceptance and compassion is. Autistics may only make up less than 2% of humanity (a statistic that is highly debatable due to how many autistic women/girls are still being undiagnosed), but we are still a group that comprises well over 100 million people worldwide, enough to form a fairly large country were we all in the same location. It may perhaps one day be considered one of the great atrocities of our age that this many people were allowed to go through or be at risk of the tragedies in this article, while doctors, authority figures, and sometimes even parents either turned a blind eye or participated in the abuses themselves.

Autism is not a tragedy, regardless of how many mainstream charlatans claim it is. The real tragedy is the lack of acceptance, and, understanding and support. Unlike autism, this actually is a plague, and can actually be cured.