Back in February, I came across an interesting post by an autistic blogger called “Don’t Call Me a Self-Advocate.” I’ve linked to it, but the author has since password protected her posts. While I wish it were available for you to read for its own sake, I can still tell you something that I learned from it.
Infantilization was a new concept to me. In case, like me, you aren’t sure what that means, to infantilize is to treat or condescend to as if still a child. From what I have read so far, the concept applies to autism in two ways.
The first issue relates to the perception of autistic self-advocates. Imagine if you would a self-advocate delivering a persuasive argument, only to have another person say, “Wow, that was quite eloquent and well-organized for a person with autism.” This is a figurative pat on the head or an indulgent round of applause like a parent might give a child who dresses up in mommy or daddy’s clothes. Any class of people can be infantilized. “Wow, you did that well for a woman. But don’t you worry your pretty little head.” See what I mean?
The second relates to the perception of all adult autistics. Perception might not be the right word in this case. Due to the focus and bias of some organizations related to autism, much of the awareness of and understanding about autism is as a condition of childhood. This study published by Disabilities Study Quarterly discusses the problem at length.
As luck would have it, as I was crafting this post someone tweeted a link to this post. Even though I’ve been trying to link to the writings of autistics, this parent has done a great job of explaining the issue. While my own son is only four, it is helpful to be reminded that he will grow up. As he ages, I’ll need to treat him with the respect and dignity he deserves so that he knows to expect that treatment from our society as a whole.
K is for knowledge, as in when I know better, I do better.
I’m blogging about autism acceptance as part of the Blogging A to Z April Challenge.