I am autistic. On the autism spectrum. An apie. Has Asperger’s. Pick your wordage.
There is an ongoing debate that Will. Not. Die. regarding whether or not vaccines cause autism. The usual response to the anti-vaxxers is that there is no evidence that this is the case, and studies indicating that vaccines do not, in fact, case autism. There there was that video by Penn & Teller showing probabilities in a very visual way, basically saying that the risks associated with not vaccinating are far higher than the risk of vaccinating, even IF vaccines do cause autism.
Thing is, both of these responses are ignoring one key piece. A piece that is, from my perspective, absolutely and completely vital. It is taking the argument on the anti-vaxxers terms, not questioning their implicit assumptions, and that is dangerous. We MUST call out implicit assumptions, and challenge them if necessary.
The implicit assumption here, rarely stated explicitly but present in every “vaccines cause autism!” argument is that it is better to die from a preventable illness than it is to be autistic.
It is better to be dead than to be like me, according to these people.
And you know what? There have been times where I actually believed that. I thought that yeah, being dead would be better. And that is so, so dangerous. Is that the implicit message we want to send to autistic people, of any age? Because when we fail to challenge that implicit belief, that understatement that is so easy to overlook in favor of arguing whether or not vaccines really do cause autism, that is the message we are sending. That yeah, it’s better to be dead that to be autistic, we just need to know whether or not vaccines are involved here.
If it were proved that yeah, vaccines cause autism, would that make refusing to vaccinate ok? Because when we exclusive focus our argument on that, to the exclusion of “it’s ok to be me” which yes, is totally an important part of this discussion, we are still saying that death is preferable to autism.
Let’s not send that message to ourselves, our children, our community, or ANYONE. Being like me is most definitely not worse than being dead. If I had a choice between being autistic, and being neurotypical but unprotected against measles, mumps, rubella, hepatitis B, polio, diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis (whooping cough), HiB disease, and chickenpox, I would pick autistic any day.
Being like me is challenging and frustrating and sometimes painful, and it is also wonderful and interesting and ok.