I’ve been trying to write about my marriage for quite a while now, but it is very difficult because there are so many complicated sinews both holding my marriage together and pushing it apart. Which of these are related to autism? And which are the natural give and take marriage calls for? Then there’s the question of which are simply the strains of two different neurologies pushing upon each other?
I’ve been married to my husband, Alex, for 13 years, and we dated for several years beforehand. He is the person I know better than anyone in the world and who understands me better than anyone. We have a happy strong marriage, but we have always struggled with getting into a good sync and with making sure that both of our needs are met.
It is my turn to talk about identity. I want to write about it because I know who I am and I am the one who decides how I identify myself.
And I am Autistic.
Many other Autistics wrote about why they prefer identity-first language. Autism is all-pervasive, it cannot be separated from me; I did not “get” autism and I cannot “lose” it; I am Autistic in the same way I am a white female. I was born with these identities and I was born Autistic. My neurology shapes my interaction with the world.
As it was explained several times, no one can make a neurology go away. It is part of how my way of processing experiences shaped me. It is why I write this. It is why I have the friends I do. It is why I communicate the way I do. It is why I live my life the way I do.
Nobody says I am a person with femaleness. Nobody calls me I person with whiteness.
Like all human beings my unique personal identity is composed of many facets. I am a woman. I am a mother. I am a daughter and a wife, a Democrat, a citizen of the United States, a writer and a former attorney. I am also an Autistic Jew. I am proud to be all of the above. I like who I am. There are times, though, when much to my sadness, it is not easy to be both Autistic and Jewish. While my religion places great value on empathy and inclusiveness, not all those who practice it do. While my people have risked their lives to stand in solidarity with others who have been disenfranchised, there have been times when we have neglected to stand in support of one another.
We have been called “the people of the book” in recognition of the importance we place on learning. How ironic, then, that we have a history of denying our own children access to a Jewish education when they have significant learning differences. This practice is more than unjust. It flies in the face of our most fundamental religious teaching and our proud cultural history.
Those of us living on the Autistic spectrum, as well as those of us loving someone on the spectrum, are quite aware of autism; so much so that an entire month of "awareness" doesn't seem to fully touch upon the needs of our community. Therefore, during the month of April, AWN will be turning its focus toward Paula Durbin-Westby’s initiative, Autism ACCEPTANCE, an aspect too often missing from the conversation about autism.
AWN has the utmost respect for the very real challenges, and lack of life-affirming resources that many individuals within our community are experiencing. We are committed to supporting all Autistic individuals, with a focus on women and girls, along with their families, friends and loved ones. Though we recognize and respect the challenges many people in our community face, we applaud access, inclusion, and the meaningful services, supports, etc. that our community needs in order to thrive and reach a higher level of sustainability. AWN would like to share in Disability Rights' advocate and activist Justin Dart's famous words and say that we rededicate ourselves to united advocacy, “Lead on! Together we shall overcome!”
I watched a video about AAC changing lives of non-speaking Autistics. It sounded great and the title - I Want to Say - seemed to indicate that our voices, the voices of Autistics who type to communicate, would be the main focus.
My first alert signal came when I saw the Autism Speaks logo associated with the video. It turns out that the video is part of a project – Hacking Autism – which is also an Autism Speaks project.
But I did not have to know this to feel disappointed. In the first few minutes of the video, Autism Speaks’ favorite statement: “more children will be diagnosed with autism than AIDS, diabetes and cancer combined."
The comparison is not real, since autism is not a disease and nobody dies of autism (unless one of us is murdered for being Autistic – it happens).
The year I was born, John Howard Griffin, a journalist and civil rights movement ally, published a book that told the story of the journey he took in order to understand Black people. He had studied, sympathized with their struggles for equality, but he did not understand them. What he did was nothing short of shocking. He made an agreement with Sepia Magazine, who funded Mr. Griffin’s journey in exchange for publishing a series of articles on what happened to the white native of Dallas, Texas during this adventure. Then, he went to a doctor and had a series of treatments to make himself Black.