There are two primary ideas that this post is all about.
Both of them are true.
1. I am ok just the way I am. I deserve to like myself and be liked by others. In fact, learning to like myself is one of the projects I am working on.
2. I need help, therapy, meds, support, and accommodation. I am constantly working on self-improvement projects and making myself better than I am.
On the surface, I think these two things can seem contradictory. If I like myself just the way I am, why am I trying to change? If I am ok, why do I need help and support? When I first started thinking about this post, it occurred to me that this apparent contradiction might be behind some of the friction between autistic adults and parents of autistic children. It’s like when I wrote about not wanting a cure, and a parent thought I was saying we should not get help or treatment. I wasn’t saying that at all, but somehow that’s what they heard.
All too often, when autistic adults are trying to push the first point – that we are ok just the way we are – people hear a negation of the second point – that we shouldn’t try to improve ourselves or get therapy or accommodation or help. As an adult on the autism spectrum, this can be INCREDIBLY frustrating. It often feels like my words are not being heard, or are even being deliberately twisted. I want acceptance, and I am accused of claiming I don’t need help.
So I think we need to examine our assumptions. Parents – I’m looking at you here. Neither statement negate the other. In fact, when I think about it, I think they go very well together.
Because I am ok just the way I am, I deserve help, therapy, meds, support, and accommodation. I am ok just the way I am, therefore it is ok to ask for what I need. I like myself, therefore I want to be the most awesome that I can be. Why settle for only kinda awesome when I know I could be EXTREMELY awesome? As a matter of fact, my mentality of working to better myself is exactly one of the things I like about myself. Go me!
Right now it feels like if an autistic advocate wants to promote the first point, they must also address the second point just to avoid being misrepresented by others. I find this really sad and wish it weren’t that way. Sometimes, when that happens, it feels like parents must believe their autistic children are NOT ok they way they are, deserving to like themselves and be liked by others. I often find this very distressing and wonder why it so often seems that we have to choose between one of the other – we’re ok OR we need help, but apparently never ever both.
So I just want to say – yes both. I am ok. I need help. IT’S OK TO NEED HELP. And liking myself is one of the best tools in my arsenal to get the help I need, and continue to improve and learn and develop. I can tell you from experience – it is incredibly difficult to move forward if I do not like myself or think that I deserve to move forward. They absolutely have to go together. And when I say that autism deserves acceptance, and that I am ok just the way I am, I am also saying that the help and accommodation I need are just as ok. We are all interdependent anyway. My interdependence may just look a little different from yours, that’s all.