What Autism Acceptance Means

Today I came across an article called something along the lines of “My son’s autism is caused by autoimmune encephalitis and no, I won’t accept it”. I was uncomfortable with how much of what the author said aligned with the antivaccine/vaccines cause autism/autism is curable narrative. But I’m going to pretend like most of what she said is true.

If this person is diagnosed with both autism and autoimmune encephalitis that does not *necessarily* mean one caused the other. It is possible to have more than one neurological condition. Or the autism could be a misdiagnosis, or the autoimmune encephalitis could be a misdiagnosis. But even if a child does have autoimmune encephalitis that doesn’t make it okay to hate that child’s neurology. When you say “I hate autism” autistic people feel like you hate them. How would you feel if I said “I hate blue eyes” or “I hate brown hair” and you had blue eyes or brown hair?

Secondly, I have noticed in general that allistic parents of autistic children think everything about their child is an autism thing, even things that are not autism and that make them and their child miserable. Many autistic people have gut problems, but that doesn’t mean that the gut problems cause autism, or are caused by vaccines, or that fixing the gut problems will “cure” autism. It could just be that the same genes are responsible for both things, which actually happens a lot with other conditions which are proven to be genetic. So when autistic people talk about autism acceptance, we are not saying you should not seek medical treatment for gut problems or seizures or anything else that is causing your child distress. You should. Gut problems are not autism. Seizures are not autism (though 1 in 4 autistic people also have epilepsy). If your child is crying all day long there is probably something wrong either with the sensory environment or with the child’s body. Autism is the way an autistic person’s brain works. Being autistic does not mean you cannot be healthy, happy, or loving.

Lastly, I want to say something about the whole food allergy-gut problem-diet thing. A lot of people think special diets can cure autism. This is not true, and believing it was true gave me an eating disorder and internalized ableism. But that does not *necessarily* mean that changing an autistic child’s diet is *always* a bad thing. Diets that remove entire food groups are probably a bad idea. But I am autistic and I have a lot of food allergies and sensitivities. Ironically I have to avoid both gluten (because it gives me gut pain) and dairy (because I’m allergic) but I’m still autistic. If an autistic person has celiac disease, gluten intolerance, or a wheat allergy, avoiding foods containing gluten is essential to being healthy and happy. If an autistic child is constantly having meltdowns it might be because they are in pain and cannot communicate that they are in pain. So if your whole concept of autism translates into “having meltdowns constantly” and your kid has meltdowns constantly, and you remove foods they are allergic to from their diet and they feel better and have more spoons to learn to communicate, maybe it looks to you like they are “cured of autism” because they are no longer having meltdowns constantly and they communicate better. But autistic people always grow and  change, and it is harmful to an autistic person to lose their diagnosis and lose their supports. That sets them up to burn out when they are older. If you go from having a sick autistic child to having a healthy happy autistic child, that doesn’t mean they are now neurotypical.

I have food allergies which give me atypical reactions that result in increased anxiety. I also get migraines from artificial sweeteners and colors. Artificial sweeteners and colors are very unhealthy and worse if you are sensitive to them, and it will not hurt your child to remove the artificial stuff from their diet. If your child has food allergies, it is vital for their health to stop eating foods they are allergic to. Allergies can affect autistic people’s health and behavior, but that does not mean they are the cause of autism. Once I saw a YouTube video of a popular parent of an autistic child who believes she cured her son’s autism with chelation. Chelation is very harmful if used improperly, and using it for autism is using it improperly. But this video had her son talking, and it was obvious to me from listening to him talk that he is still autistic. I feel very sad for him because he is probably not getting the supports he needs, because everyone around him believes he is not autistic anymore. Autism is largely a developmental delay, and just because an autistic person cannot do something allistic people their age can do, does not mean they will never do that thing. A nonverbal autistic child learning to talk when they are older does not make them suddenly nonautistic. I wish parents of autistic children would stop panicking when their child isn’t doing something neurotypical children their age are going, and think their child will never grow up. Autistic people don’t stay children forever. We grow and  we never stop learning. Please accept us.


6 thoughts on “What Autism Acceptance Means

  1. Great article. Of course, when someone removes gluten from the diet of a person with celiac disease, their behaviour will improve, not because they are no longer autistic, but because they are no longer having stomach cramps.

    I like that you pointed out that, while autism may be a developmental delay, does not mean the person is a perpetual child. I don’t agree with “functioning age labels” (stating an adult “functions at level of” arbitrary age under 18). Just because an adult doesn’t do everything their NT peers do, does not make them less of an adult.


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