Monday, April 20, 2009

Autism Advocacy

Autism Advocacy - what does it mean for me?

I believe that to advocate for autism means advocating for the civil, human and humane rights of the autistic person.

Allowing the autistic person the ability to speak and be heard regarding their desires, thoughts and feelings, either via their own abilities to communicate verbally, visually or with assistance.

Honoring their choices about how they wish to live their lives and what assistance they request or require to live a quality life.

A while back, I worked in a legal firm which advocated for the rights of individuals who were less able (financially) to 'hire' the assistance of private lawyers to defend them, and/or assist them in empowering themselves to have their human rights (or other important issues, amongst other things) rightfully respected. When these fellow citizens felt their feelings, issues and selves were respected they felt supported, heard and relieved that there was a service with which they felt they had an equal right, as any one else in the community, to be it justice or care.

Autism Advocacy, just as with the legal firm I worked with, should equally honour and respect the autistic person.

Autism Advocacy, to me, is not about curing the autistic individual, providing invasive/inhumane or 'fad' treatments for autism, 'training' autism out of the person, labouring for hours a day to change the autistic child to become 'normalized', and so on............

I feel that true advocacy for the autistic person (child, teen or adult) is to work with them, work for them, work beside them. Listen to them and be guided by their intrinsic selves, their natural ways of communicating and being.

Gain a clear understanding/interpretation of what the elements of their 'autistic' behaviours (e.g. rocking, handflapping etc.) mean.

Learn what is the best way they can confidently communicate their needs and wishes.

Know that what is one autistic person's 'experience' and way of being is and can be very different to the next autistic individual.

Be respected for their individuality and their personhood.

Autistic children (or persons), who are unable to speak for themselves or act on their own behalf when it comes to what assistance is being provided for them, especially need to be advocated for in a fashion as I have described above. They deserve nothing less.

A person who believes in advocacy in its' truest sense is not a self serving individual. They are individuals who believe in honoring the dignity of a fellow human being and acting on their behalf (when needed or requested to) to ensure that such is upheld by 'others'.