False Allies and Why Autistic Kids Have No Perks

I’ve debated writing a response to the baffling article recently published that lists 10 perks autistic kids get from bullying. I figured initially I wouldn’t. After all others are on it. I also honestly have trouble arguing that the things listed in the article are other than good. How can I argue that reforms brought on by increased awareness of bullying to improve our ives aren’t beneficial? Maybe I could argue that the article was ill worded, but I wasn’t THAT angry at it. Also I’m very busy with my lifelong dream project. Why add to the noise?

Then I stopped and thought. Then I realized I had to write.

Something I haven’t hit on until now is the subject of false allies. These are the people who claim alliance but actually look down on us. They cheer us on when we do things that we know we logically can do. They think it’s so amazing we’re fighting on to live normal lives. Why? Because in their minds we aren’t really adults or full people.

False allies are a sad reality of the world we live in. We deal with them far more than we’d like to. And the thing is, I don’t think they’re malicious. I think many false allies mean well. They just don’t know well enough. With education, I see no reason a false ally can’t more into the real ally category. I’ve had several friends get there.

But sadly, the false allies continue to be out there. That’s how articles like this one, by an ABA therapist, exist. The writer of the article is, I see, a prolific writer and therapist. I’m certain she means well. She seems to have done a lot of research. Nothing in this article is on the surface malicious.

It’s when I dig deeper that it truly enrages me. First off, the central premise is broken and vaguely passive aggressive. 10 Ways Allistic Society Works to Help Autistic Children would work as a premise. 10 Ways Schools are Responding to Bullying is fine too. But perks? There are no perks here. It feels snide, like “see how we cater to you!”

Then there’s the fact that many of the “perks” are untrue. Let me just hit on a few points.

For example, the article argues we gain from team work with the school. I’d laugh but I’m too busy crying at the memory of how that really went. If you’ve got a good school, sure you might get some team work. But here’s reality: most schools kinda stink at handling this issue. As I’ve noted repeatedly, schools like to keep things quiet, the autistic ain’t.

Then there’s the argument we build strength. Yes, I’d argue that depression I went through was strength. The year I spent in virtual isolation? Time where I toughened. Yeah, I can’t keep going.

The friendship section of this article is probably the most condescending section. While yes, I gravitated towards close friends, many of whom still are such, I would’ve done that anyway. I always did. It’s how I’m wired. To argue we needed the pain of bullying to reach that point is revolting.

The self esteem argument is the last one made and the single worst. Bullying victims don’t develop higher self esteem as a response. We typically develop much worse self esteem. I didn’t feel confident for what I survived. I felt lesser. I still feel this way to a great degree.

So if the article is ridiculous and the allies are fake, what’s the point in this discussion? Why waste time and energy on it? Simple: because people like that control the argument. Well meaning people who fail to see the reality of our lives. These people might think they’re helping but they’re not.

The sad truth is, eye catching title aside, this article is no different from many others published every year. There are mountains of books published that take this condescending approach. They’re all terrible, sure. But the sad truth is they’re nothing new, nothing abnormal.

How do we counter them them? Easy. We never shut up. If we talk long enough, eventually we will be heard. It’s the only hope we have. It may not be the simplest thought, but it’ll have to do. Ours is an eternal fight. We won’t give up yet.

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