Roar 2: The Celebration
(Image description: A screenshot of a youtube comment. The profile picture and screen name of the poster is blurred out. The comment reads: Autism Speaks was created for the ones who can’t speak for themselves and create awareness. 1in 68 is a high number, so yes do research to find out why. You have a great life, but for the ones who can’t speak for themselves and banging their heads, someone needs to help them. Why all the high functioning autistics have so much to say but don’t do anything for your fellow autistics. So please don’t bash .. cause someone needs to speak for the non verbal. Again it was not created for High functioning autistics. you guys do not need help. but the rest do.”)
I get questions about “allies” a lot, how to differentiate the allistic people who really do want to understand us and support us from the allistic people who think or say that they are helping us, but are really doing the opposite. This youtube comment is a good tool to illustrate some common red flags when it comes to false allies.
1. Any non-Autistic person who speaks or writes over the voices of Autistic people are probably not our allies. It’s not that the voices and support of our allistic allies isn’t appreciated— because we do appreciate our allies a lot! It’s that, when it comes to discussions about Autism, the voices of Autistic people should always be given priority and not spoken over, erased, or invalidated. And false allies tend to do just that.
2. When a person has heard the truth about how Autism Speaks hurts the Autistic community, but they then choose to continue to support Autism Speaks, that person is no friend to the Autistic community. They are a friend only to Autism Speaks and to themselves. A good ally will defend and support Autistic people, not Autism Speaks.
3. Be very wary of the use of these 1 in 88, 1 in 68, etc. numbers. They are most often used to generate fear and support for Autism Speaks’ goal of “awareness”. But what the Autistic community needs is understanding and acceptance, not Autism Speaks’ brand of fear mongering and “awareness”. These numbers are often followed by the use of the words epidemic or crisis— one of the biggest red flags.
4. Think of the use of functioning labels as a big bouquet of red flags being presented to you. For every allistic person who has not yet been educated on why functioning labels are harmful and shouldn’t be used, there is a false ally out there intentionally using functioning labels to dismiss the opinions and and invalidate the experiences of Autistic people. And there really is no pleasing these false allies. Either you are too low-functioning to have an opinion on Autism, disability, social justice (and even your own life), or you’re too high-functioning and not really Autistic, which means that you don’t get a say in matter of Autism, disability, or social justice.
5. Finally, phrases like “someone needs to speak for the non-verbal” and “the ones who can’t speak for themselves” are the greatest red flag of them all. A true ally will understand that, while some Autistic people will never communicate via spoken language, every Autistic person has their own rich inner world of thoughts, feelings, opinions, and an inner voice. A good ally will know that, even if an Autistic person never speaks with their mouthparts, with the right accommodation and teaching there is a very good chance that their voice can be heard one day. But false allies spread the wrong idea that non-verbal Autistic people can’t and will never speak for themselves, and that they need allistic people to speak for them. This is an insidious and very harmful myth about non-verbal Autistic people.
If any of you have any examples of red flags to watch out for, or examples of false allies (especially those who cause more harm than good), feel free to reblog and add your thoughts. And, for those of you who prefer more positive and uplifting reads, I have a post on what makes a great ally in the works, so look out for that!
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