A text co-written by Mathieu Giroux and Mélanie Ouimet, translated from French to English by Hunter McLean
Now that we know that the medical history of autism has engendered significant detriment to autistic people, what should we do about it? The first step is to talk about inclusion rather than integration. We must recognize that autistic people are part of society, like any other individual, and we must stop categorizing them as a group that society is burdened to accommodate.
The state of an autistic is not immutable. An autistic person evolves at their own pace. The neurological variants of autistics, focused intelligence and over-perception, lead them to have a developmental rhythm totally different from non-autistics, therefore comparing the development of autistic and non-autistic individuals is impossible. One must never underestimate an autistic person’s intelligence or understanding. Tools should be sought to promote communication and learning in accordance with their neurology, that is to say, their autistic way of thinking.
To promote the autonomy of an autistic person, we must first respect and understand their neurology. Even if, in appearance, a child called a « severe » or « low level » autistic does not seem to do anything, does not learn anything and is locked in their own world, it is never really the case. The autistic child focuses on the details and gradually opens, at his or her own rhythm, to the outside. In this sense, children with autism do not have a learning delay and are simply learning different things in different ways. It is therefore essential to see autism as a different mode of functioning and not a handicap or a deficit to be filled; this is how the biggest mistakes are made.
Autism does not disappear as we get older. However, autistics acquire knowledge and skills gradually over the years, in order to function in society with more or less ease, with more or less support. These are generally adaptive behaviors, the autistic person adapts to the needs and constraints of society and the environment in order to live at the pace of the present society, according to conventions and social codes. We could thus speak of « invisible » autism in comparison with « visible » autism during childhood.
Autistic thinking is the common thread of all people with autism and autism includes them all.
Autistics are diverse, like non-autistic people, and they do not need to be categorized. Some autistics have observable traits more pronounced and obvious than others. Some will need more help and tools to develop. The whole strongly tinted by the personal, family, social and environmental baggage of each individual. Autistic thinking is the common thread of all people with autism and autism includes them all.
The key elements to help an autistic person to develop are the understanding of autistic thinking and the preference for a mode of communication designed for that particular neurology, such as the conceptual language of SACCADE. Their specific interests must also be fostered and encouraged, not repressed. Specific interests are the motor of learning of autistic people. We need to go beyond appearances and understand autistic behaviors in order to get in touch with them and meet their needs.
This is how autistics will feel and be included in this society to which they will participate fully. Autistic people desire and choose to live with non-autistic people. They simply want this desire and choice to be inclusive and non-discriminatory.