Trigger Warning: If you use the phrase, “autism is a gift,” and functioning labels/severity levels, then beware — this post may just offend you. This is a post advocating for a separate diagnosis of profound autism.
The war between profound autism and high-functioning autism
The autism-is-a-blessing movement, to me, is not the empowering, uplifting social progress it’s made out to be — a narrative, from what I can tell, that comes from high-functioning and/or self-diagnosed adults with autism, and parents of “Level 1″ kiddos.
I was reading an online autism support group today and someone wished they could have more AUTISTIC kids. That’s right. And they were judging parents who think raising an autistic child is difficult and wondering why people don’t wish autism on their children.
This post angered me. Imagine coming to that group, in distress, for parenting support and advice, and having your experience completely dismissed and belittled like that.
I’m beyond frustrated with these people ignoring the existence of profoundly autistic individuals, for example, in their sweeping statements about how parents “should” act and feel about their life and the struggles they might be having. You know, the kiddos who grow up to be autistic adults needing 24h care, supervision, and someone to change their diapers at age 40. The kid with limited speech abilities who, at 30, still doesn’t have a way to communicate, after decades of hard work by them and their parents. And the children who tragically never arrive at adulthood because they drown or got hit by a car, having had no sense of danger.
What’s profound autism?
Learn more about profound autism here.
Autism isn’t just the high-functioning autistic with amazing but narrow abilities, struggling with social rules, who gets easily overwhelmed. No. Autism is just as often, if not more often:
⁃ Self-injurious behaviors
⁃ Inability to understand or communicate their needs
⁃ Intellectual disability
⁃ Inability to keep themself safe
⁃ Adult diapers
⁃ 24/7 supervision for life
– property destruction
Add to that all the comorbid conditions, too, like depression, anxiety, GI issues, and more.
For someone to wish autism on their children shows a significant lack of understanding of autism’s reality and the range of experiences people have with it, both the autistic and the caregiver or loved one. Profound autism sucks.
I love my Charlie beyond words — and for that reason, anything that holds him back from so many things that make like fulfilling and enjoyable is something I’d not wish on him or any other child.
Autism and severity levels
Severity levels exist for a reason. The rare, narrow autistic experience that a mother would wish on her child is not the autism that I parent in Charlie every day. This is why I won’t stop fighting for separate diagnoses, or more specific terminology, to better communicate one’s place on the incredibly broad and varied spectrum.
Bringing back “Asperger’s” could be helpful (and no, he wasn’t a nazi). Or maybe profoundly autistic individuals should have a separate diagnosis from Level 1s and 2s — their symptoms are so much more varied and intense. I don’t know. But the current way isn’t working.
So, if it’s not clear yet from what I’ve shared, no one can or should speak on behalf of autistics, autism parents, or the autistic community. I’m frustrated with people midly affected by autism not understanding how broad the spectrum is. I’m frustrated with people who have so little compassion toward struggling caregivers of people with autism.
If you see your autism as a gift, that is totally fine, and I’m genuinely pleased for you. For many autistics, autism is a debilitating condition that does not improve, defining that person’s existence, and in many cases, their caregiver’s too. You’re allowed to be frustrated — with your own autism or with your kiddo’s. Autism can be very frustrating. Whatever your experience is, don’t deny it or feel shame about it. And don’t let someone else define what it’s supposed to be.