I recently read a little story written by an Autistic Irishwoman, Evaleen Whelton, explaining what it’s like being an autistic advocate here in Ireland, or anywhere really. It really struck me, so I’m going to share it here with permission.
Myself and others have been trying to be heard for the past few days in an online debate on ABA between adult autistics and professionals. I left them with this but also I wanted to post it here too.
I will leave you with a little story about what’s happened to autistic voices right here and what happens too often.
We have scientific evidence of how horses behave, we have theories about what horses feel, we have studied horses for many years and have a vast knowledge about them. We have ethical ways of treating horses according to our studies and the beliefs based on those.
One day, along comes a talking horse who tries to tell us that actually some of the ways we treat him make him want to die inside, that many of his friends feel like this too, that they long to roam free. That they are happy to serve us but need us to do something in return so that they get a fair exchange.
We tell that horse that he is ignorant, that he can’t possibly know as much as us with our many years of research, our qualifications and our study of his and other horse’s behaviour.
We tell him to be quiet, that he doesn’t know what he’s talking about and that there is scientific evidence that horses feel good about themselves in response to the way we treat them.
We tell that horse to shut up.
We dismiss what he says and make him want to die inside all over again.
Until we find a happily ever after for this story autistic people will continue to die inside.
Please remember this story the next time you address an autistic person.
Evaleen has organised what looks like a brilliant conference next year in Cork. It’s the first time in Ireland that an autism conference consists entirely of autistic speakers. So if you live in Ireland and want to support and help elevate autistic voices, and learn a thing or two along the way, you really should check it out. I haven’t bought my ticket yet but hopefully will soon. You can get tickets and more info here.