I feel I may call you Jerry now, instead of Mr. Seinfeld, for you have declared that you are one of us: those on the autism spectrum. That means you have declared yourself to be a member of my neurotribe and at least a cousin, if not a brother. Welcome to the family.
I had some disagreement with other members of our tribe about your “coming out.” Some are not so eager to welcome you as I. I have been told that since you are “self-diagnosed,” you do not count. I replied that there is so much stigma involved with being Autistic that I am happy to greet you all the same, because you may be taking the label yourself, single-handedly, but it is a label that comes with so much judgment and social censure that, while I am proud of being Autistic, I also recognize that it is not in the same class as diagnosing yourself beautiful or talented or rich.
I have been told that no famous person should make this sort of announcement, but I think that attitude is part of the overall stigma that I fight against every day. Many of us, even those of us who are not self-diagnosed, constantly have to cope with an image problem. Because I write well, I am told I can’t possibly be Autistic. A friend who presents in front of audiences with the poise and eloquence of a classical orator is told that she isn’t Autistic enough or doesn’t look Autistic. Any marker of success we show in the world is used as evidence to attack our integrity and our identity. How much more is that trend continuing when someone says you cannot tell the world that you perceive yourself as being on the autism spectrum because you have had a successful career, a television show, and so on?
No, I welcome you as one of us. You have learned about autism and you have looked into yourself and seen autism inside you. You are willing to come forth and risk censure and ridicule when you tell everyone that you see autism there, inside yourself, and you identify with it. As you can see, the critics come from all sides, even your fellow tribe members. But I welcome you and I hope that you will choose to do much good on behalf of those of us who resemble you in one way or another.
You believe you have done good for us already, through your work with Autism Speaks. But I am here to implore you to look further into that organization and choose to stop supporting what they do. You have identified as one of us now, Jerry, and that means you have an obligation to serve our needs from within, as a brother, as one of us.
Autism Speaks says terrible things about us. They hire other people to say terrible things about us. They craft messages of horror and despair about us. Last year, 43% of their budget was devoted to advertising. From 2012 to 2013, they increased advertising spending from $2.2 million to $52.2 million . . . . a 2,260% increase in funding for sending the message that we are an epidemic, a tsunami, a devastation that destroys marriages, that is worse than diseases that kill people. Think on that for a moment, Jerry: you have been supporting an organization that says that people like you and me are worse than deadly diseases. Is that where you want to put your time and money? Do you think you are a blight? Do you think I am?
You have always seemed to me like a kind person, someone with compassion in his heart. You have always seemed like someone who observes human nature and points out the absurdity of it, but in a way that could only come from someone who genuinely loves people. You find humans lovably absurd. I have always felt that you are a good and loving person.
The good and loving thing to do is to stop supporting an organization that claims to help Autistic people yet only puts 4% of their budget toward the goal of actually helping Autistic people and our families. 13% of Autism Speaks’ budget goes toward what they call “scientific research” but what is actually genocidal research designed to ensure that people like us are never born again, whether through discovering causes and eliminating them or devising a pre-natal test so that we can be aborted before we ever get a chance to take a breath. This is how Down Syndrome was “battled.” An estimated 90% of babies testing positive for Down Syndrome are aborted now. Do you think I should have been aborted? Do you think you should have been aborted, Jerry? Do you think the world would have been a better place if you had never been born? I don’t think that about you at all and I plead with you to stop supporting an organization that does believe that. Autism Speaks is an organization that is working toward a goal of “curing autism” and that goal means that people like you and me, as well as all of our beautiful fellow neurotribe members, will be wiped from the face of the earth.
I do not think that would make the earth a better place at all. I do not think destroying an entire neurotype is the way to make anything better about our planet. I do not think we should let anyone wipe out a people who are noted for, among other things, a very strong sense of justice and a depth of compassion so deep that we are accused of lacking empathy when we are forced to turn away from the extreme pain we find when we engage this world that can too often be harsh and cruel.
I would urge you instead to support organizations that are supported by your fellow Autistics and that support the needs and goals of Autistic people, not of those people who would seek to destroy autism and Autistic people.
Jerry, please turn your efforts toward groups like: The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network (ASAN), The Association for Autistic Community, Autism Women’s Network, Association of Programs for Rural Independent Living, Autism National Committee, National Council on Independent Living, Ollibean, Taishoff Center for Inclusive Higher Education, or any group that supports Autistic people as fully human, fully participating, fully respected, fully supported members of the community of humankind.
Thank you for reading this, Jerry. And thank you to everyone who read along with Jerry. This is my plea not just to you, Jerry, but to the world. Some Autistics have found worldly success, like you, Daryl Hannah, Dan Aykroyd, and more. But most of us need so much help and support. We need acceptance and accommodations. We need you on our side, Jerry, now that you have realized that our side is your side, too. Why do I not care whether you “really” are on the autism spectrum or not? Because the oppression of any person is the oppression of every person. Whether you “really” are Autistic or not doesn’t matter because our battle is your battle anyway. We are fighting to be recognized as wholly human, worthy of dignity and respect, worthy of participating fully in the community, deserving of acceptance and assistance. We are asking to be known and wanted and treated well. We are telling the world that we have so much to offer if others will be willing to meet us half-way and accept what we bring to society. The world needs Autistic people, Jerry, and whether you are Autistic or not (and I am happy to believe you are, and to welcome you to the neurotribe!) it is time for you to see the harm that Autism Speaks does to our cause, our hopes, our dreams, our needs. We want to be part of the whole human family and Autism Speaks seeks to cast us out from the world forever.
Please join us, Jerry. Please join your people. Please be fully one of us — not just in name or public recognition, but in heart and spirit and soul. Please do not support groups that want to hurt us and erase us. Please work to help make the world better for Autistics — better for me, better for you, better for everyone like us, our tribe, our family.
Thank you, and I hope you will investigate the organizations I mentioned above and choose to put your energies and resources with us instead of against us.
My Love and Respect to You,
Sparrow Rose Jones