A tragic epidemic or human super power? What has autism got to do with it?

If you’re a general member of the public and have only come across the word autism in the media, you’ve likely read that autism is the worst tragedy that could happen to your child, and they will have no quality of life. Or that we all have savant-like abilities and will advance the human race with our technological discoveries. 

The reality is, most of us are neither. So why do people believe this to be true about all autistic people?

I have a theory. 

For decades, the negative narrative of autism was extreme; I mean seriously extreme. To the point where parents were not vaccinating their children because they believed the risk of their child catching a lethal disease was better than autism, a developmental difference that doesn’t result in death or illness….

Anyway, when people started to view autism through a lens that wasn’t all doom and gloom, it went to the opposite extreme into toxic positivity territory (e.g. autistic people have superpowers etc.). I think this was a reaction to how unnecessarily awful the media attention autism got to start with, that people felt the need to go to the extreme in the other direction to challenge this. To me, it’s just another example of culture wars online between the left and right.

I feel this has also extended into other areas of the autism discourse online with the “battle” between autistic adults and parents of autistic children reported by Today.com.  

https://www.today.com/parents/autism-wars-why-parents-autistic-adults-are-battling-t227565

I have interacted with countless parents online, and the overwhelming majority have been kind and compassionate people wanting what’s best for their child. Sadly there have been a few exexpectations, but it’s nowhere near as extreme as the above article describes this “battle” to be. It seems exaggerated for clicks. 

Anyway, let’s get back on track! I’ve seen autism advocates countless times challenge this narrative that we’re either superhuman or worthless to society on Twitter. Many argue that most of us are reasonably ordinary in our abilities and just want to be seen as human. Which I totally get. To be honest, I don’t feel comfortable with people debating if my life is tragic or extraordinary based on my neurodivergence. 

Can’t I simply just be? Regardless of my abilities or perceived abilities.

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