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Yes, Autism Is a Disability

Personal Perspective: The human condition includes disability.

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Autism brings joy
Source: creative commons

I have a disability; it is called autism.

Disability is not a bad word. It's simply an aspect of the human condition, one that we all encounter throughout life, whether it's a short-term disability like breaking your arm, a long-term disability like autism, or a disability that simply comes with old age.

It's vital to not put others down when expressing autistic pride. By some refusing to acknowledge that autism is a disability, instead using terms such as "different-ability" and "superpower", what does that imply for other disabilities such as MS, cystic fibrosis, etc.? That they are lesser than? As if the word disability is a stain on who someone is?

The disability community is already marginalized enough, we have no room for infighting.

Let me make a distinction: It is fine, as an autistic, to not think of your autism as a disability. That is your perspective and your lived experience, and it deserves to be respected.
But there is a stark difference in saying that autism, in and of itself, and outside of your own subjective experience, is not a disability.

Autism can be incredibly devastating for individuals and families, no matter where one falls on the spectrum on any given day. Personally, autism is my worst enemy, yet it is also my best friend. It is indeed my superpower, but also my kryptonite. My greatest asset, yet my biggest downfall. We must embrace the totality of our human condition in which disability is a neglected cornerstone. When we fail to pay attention to the hardships, we leave this cornerstone to crumble under the weight of superfluous self-aggrandizement, ultimately leading to the crumbling of our sense of self.

While it is true that a lot of devastation in the autism community occurs through societal friction and lack of supports, services, and awareness, and not necessarily from autism in an isolated silo, this also holds true for many other disabilities. Society is simply not built to be inclusive, equitable, or accessible for those with various unique needs.

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Autism brings despair
Source: Creative Commons

Yet, I cannot help but think that even if I were to isolate myself from the world much like Henry David Thoreau in his cabin on Walden Pond, I would still encounter vehement struggles stemming from my autism due to uncontrollable variables in the environment that obstruct the safety of my routine, as well as sensory challenges, for no matter how far from society one can think to be placed, we would still possess our senses, which in and of itself are a challenge for those on the spectrum to process and evaluate.

All this to say that existence with a disability is trying enough, and it is precisely for this reason that we have to limit the arguments we have in our community because we're taking our eyes off the ball. Injustice is rampant for the largest minority in the world (disabilities), and if we waste our energy arguing over semantics, the chances of progressive change lessen, change that could, and does, literally make or break individuals and their families.

Autism is a disability. If you don't view it that way, that's fine. But please do not speak for others. One of the worst things you can do to a person in our community is to tell them that they don't have a disability. The audacity to dismiss and invalidate others' lived experience is the complete antithesis of awareness and acceptance.

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