Today, November 1st, is "Autistics Speaking Day" and is supposed to be a day where people with autism tell the world what it is like to live with autism. Today is supposed to be a day to raise awareness and acceptance of autism, to battle negative stereotypes about autism, and to advocate for the inclusion of "autistic" people in the community. All of these things are laudable goals.
But today, in my ever so humble opinion, should not be remembered only for the voices that you do hear, but also for the voices that you don't. Today, the voices you won't hear is the overwhelming majority of people with autism because autism has taken their ability to communicate.
There are no solid figures available, but by all accounts almost half of all people with autism never learn to talk. Another ten to thirty percent will have rudimentary use of language but would not be able to carry on a typical conversation. It is only a minority of people with autism who have the ability to communicate effectively with the world. It is only the minority who are able to function in the world in spite of their autism.
So today, you will hear about the experiences and needs of a very vocal minority of people with autism. And while these people do have worthwhile and important things to say, let's not forget that they tend not to speak for the needs of the silent majority. In their rush to declare that autism is just a "difference" or a neurological diversity that needs acceptance rather than a cure, this group of vocal "autistics" tends to marginalize and ignore the needs of those who are profoundly disabled by their autism.
So today, while you are listening to the voices of the "autistics", don't forget to listen to the silence from the majority of people with autism who are unable to talk for themselves.